For the most part, we relish Wyoming’s unique, independent and proud political example of coveting as much local-level control as possible. That means less state and federal involvement for communities that, by and large, know better than anyone else what’s best for their own.
Then there are those rare instances where intervention from Big Brother can’t be helped, when an egregious neglect of the community has to stop. It’s why the United States has been willing to spend billions of dollars to send thousands of troops for decades at a time to “stabilize” areas where the general population would otherwise be at the mercy of inhumane regimes.
That’s also why it’s difficult, but necessary, that we call on Gov. Mark Gordon to open an independent investigation of the Campbell County Commission. That body’s ongoing efforts to destroy, defund and discredit its own Campbell County Public Library isn’t only a dangerous and backward approach for that community, it’s an embarrassing black eye for all of Wyoming. More importantly, our governor cannot remain silent and sit idle as the Campbell County Commission continues to explore the depths of its own misinformed, homophobic and borderline illegal behavior.
In a nutshell, the commission — and especially Commissioner Del Shelstad — has been more than sympathetic to a loud and obnoxious minority group of extreme-right delusionists that has for months protested and picketed the library. It’s crime? Having a small selection of books aimed at the LBGTQ+ community.
It took almost no time for the rumor mill to blast its way through the county with absurd, ridiculous and untrue claims. Suddenly, the library not only had some alternate lifestyle literature, it was pornography aimed at “indoctrinating” area children. The outcries and protests haven’t stopped, and in fact have escalated to the point of prompting this editorial and our call for the governor’s office to step in with its own investigation.
With the approval of the Campbell County Commission, a special prosecutor has been appointed to investigate whether criminal charges should be brought against the library for allegedly disseminating obscenity. This comes on the heels of Shelstad even suggesting the county defund its own public library. “If that means closing it, then we close it,” he said.
In 2021 and through the eyes of the society we’ve built over hundreds of years in the United States, observing Shelstad and the rest of the commission be the strong-armed government club for an out-of-control mob is like watching another round of witch trials.
Only now we know better. Or at least we should.
“The debate over Campbell County Public Library has gone from overblown nonsensical to scary in just a few days,” writes the Gillette News Record in a recent editorial. “Some took it so far this week as to file a criminal complaint with the (Campbell County) Sheriff’s Office likening the library’s book collection to a sex crime.
“And to top it all off, one of our county commissioners called for defunding — even closing — Campbell County Public Library.”
The newspaper of record for Campbell County, the News Record’s summation echoes what others are saying about the debacle unfolding in the northeast part of the Cowboy State: an exasperated “Please.”
Officially, 18 of the library’s collection of 188,000 books have been challenged. Now the commission is supporting a criminal investigation over those 18 books — against one of its own agencies. It’s an extreme move the News Record says is “the mark of a bully, a tyrant or a dictator. Take your pick. It is not the mark of a good leader.”
A good leader, Mr. Gordon, acts against the bully, the tyrant and the dictator.