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Lafayette Public Library turns down voting rights grant

Posted at 6:41 PM, Feb 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-01 19:42:12-05

LAFAYETTE  — Controversy is surrounding the Lafayette Public Library after board members rejected a grant that would create a program to educate community members on the history of voting rights in the United States. The grant would fund books, two guest speakers and discussion groups on the topic.

Multiple board members say they denied the grant because the speakers chosen were "extremely far left", and that they did not present both sides of the argument.

"We don't see another side," says Kathleen Espinoza, a representative for the League of Women Voters in Lafayette. "The league believes that we should all be unified in our efforts to educate ourselves on the historic struggle to bring the ballot, and make it accessible for every American."

One of the discussion leaders was supposed to be Theodore Foster, a professor of African American History at UL. He stated in an article with the Advocate that the rejection of the grant is "disappointing given the history of African Americans an voting rights...it speaks to a larger anti-intellectualism that we've seen across the country that would seek to restrict access to broaden the public's literacy about the right to vote."

"We are dismayed by, what really is, a political wind that is being brought into something that should not be political," says Espinoza. "The educating of the community on the struggle of bringing voting rights to all Americans."

The library board president, Doug Polombo, released a statement Monday afternoon in response to the backlash saying that the Lafayette Public Library is determined to bring political neutrality back to the system by inviting Professor Foster and anyone else to speak in a healthy debate with an opposing scholar on the more controversial voting issues.

Since the board's action, their executive director resigned abruptly, and three groups have spoken out against it, including the League, Stand Black and the NAACP.
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