Alabama Republican Party (ALGOP) chairman John Wahl has responded to complaints over his scheduled involvement in an upcoming roundtable discussion over explicit library books.
In addition to chairing ALGOP, Gov. Kay Ivey appointed Wahl to serve on the Alabama Public Library Service (APLS) board, which has been at the center of statewide debate over sexually explicit children’s books in libraries.
Read Freely Alabama recently took issue with Walh attending an event to discuss the explicit book issues. Read Freely Alabama was formed to combat the efforts of groups like Clean Up Prattville and Clean Up Alabama that seek to remove or relocate sexually explicit and LGBTQ+-promoting books in public libraries.
Clean Up Alabama is hosting a roundtable event in Prattville titled “Fighting to End the Sexualization of Children in Alabama Libraries,” which is slated to feature Wahl, 1819 News CEO Bryan Dawson and others.
In response to the event, Read Freely Alabama sent a letter to the APLS board of directors and Ivey, claiming Wahl’s participation in the event constituted a conflict of interest.
“[W]e demand that the APLS Board of Directors publicly explain why they allow Mr. Wahl, in his capacity as member on the Board of Directors, to publicly affiliate with and promote Clean Up Alabama, a group that stands in direct opposition to Alabama public libraries’ historic values,” the letter reads.
It continues, “While we support Wahl’s right to possess his personal views and beliefs, Read Freely Alabama cannot fathom why Wahl, in his capacity of APLS Board of Directors member, is publicly aligning himself, and by extension, all APLS Board of Directors members and employees, with Clean Up Alabama. We suspect that Mr. Wahl is intentionally abusing his authority as a member of the APLS Board of Directors to enhance his political reputation and consolidate his power over the Alabama GOP.”
Wahl responded that his participation is not a conflict of interest, as he would engage with any group wanting to discuss important issues.
“I am sorry that anyone would assume my agreement to meet with Clean Up Alabama has some kind of conflict or agenda attached to it,” Wahl said. “I believe strongly in talking with everyone and being able to have an open dialog with people of all backgrounds. I would be glad to talk with Read Freely Alabama or any other group about their concerns. That is the job of a good public official and what makes a healthy society. Freedom of speech and open debate are hallmarks of the American experience. I am afraid Read Freely Alabama may have forgot the role of good government — to be a voice of the people. APLS board members were appointed to serve and represent the people of Alabama, and that is a duty I take seriously. You cannot do that job if you can’t talk to people.”
Clean Up Alabama also released a statement refuting the conflict of interest claim and supporting Wahl’s involvement.
“Instead of focusing on the issues and explaining why they are defending sexually inappropriate and pornographic material being made available to minors in our libraries, Read Freely Alabama is attacking people who believe that is not an appropriate use of taxpayer dollars,” the statement read. “Our state needs more people like Wahl who are willing to stand up for parental rights and the innocence of Alabama’s children and aren’t going to back down to threats from the woke mob. Mr Wahl simply accepted the invitation to participate in our roundtable, a place where concerned parents will be discussing the issues we are facing in our public libraries. Since when did talking with concerned parents become a conflict of interest?”
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