An overflow crowd of hundreds of people snaked around the Taylor Public Library on Saturday, August 5. They were there to attend a children’s book reading which featured two well-known conservative activists—Brave Books author and Growing Pains actor Kirk Cameron and Riley Gaines, a former college swimmer who now opposes the inclusion of transgender athletes in sports.
Titled “See You at the Library,” the Brave Books campaign was aimed to promote children’s books with conservative values under the guise of protecting free speech. More than three dozen events of varying sizes were organized by local sponsors across the state of Texas. The largest of the gatherings occurred at Taylor Public Library in Williamson County, where they were sponsored by the Williamson County chapter of Citizens Defending Freedom, a national group that is simultaneously pushing to ban books elsewhere in Texas. State Representative Caroline Harris, a supporter of the recently passed bill banning transgender athletes in college sports, attended the event in Taylor.
Dubbed by critics as “Moms for Liberty in suits,” Citizens Defending Freedom is increasingly playing a role in local politics across Texas. A national organization that promotes Christian conservative candidates and policies at the local level, Citizens Defending Freedom frames their mission in tones that are common among promoters of Christian dominionism—a theological movement which posits that America is a Christian nation ordained by God and that Christians must take authority over all aspects of society.
“Our great nation is at a pivotal period in our history. We are becoming a lost nation devoid of God,” the Citizens Defending Freedom website reads. “We are fighting a battle of Good versus Evil, a battle for the soul of America, and a battle for the future of our children and grandchildren.”
The Brave Books events in Williamson County sponsored by Citizens Defending Freedom were also supported by the local Moms for Liberty chapter, whose volunteers were seen manning the event. Among the Citizens Defending Freedom leaders in Williamson County is a woman named Marcia Watson, who was photographed holding a Confederate Flag with convicted seditionist and Oath Keepers Leader Stuart Rhodes and whose name appeared in chats published by the January 6 commission.
None of the See You at the Library events were officially sponsored by the libraries where they were held. Local citizens and groups reserved the spaces for the event. But the line between the provision of space and sponsorship by official city organizations was blurred in Carrollton, where Carrollton fire fighters actively participated in the event.
Not all of the Brave Books events across Texas were so well attended as the one in Taylor. In Dallas, fewer than twenty people attended a reading of one of Kirk Cameron’s books, As You Grow, That was organized by members of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, which hosted thrice-indicted former President Donald Trump in 2021. The event included prayer, religious worship songs, and a recruiter for the United States Marines Corps who gave out military-branded water bottles to elementary school aged children.
Outside the See You at the Library event at the Round Rock Library, just a thirty minute drive from Taylor, more than 100 people gathered in opposition. They had no intention of trying to stop the book reading from occurring; instead they sought to send a message of opposition to exclusionary Christian nationalist rhetoric and of support to the marginalized communities who feel targeted by it. Among them was Jose Orta, a gay man who recently ran unsuccessfully for Williamson County commissioner.
“They have every right to have this event,” Orta told the Texas Observer. “But they need to be honest with the community as to what this event actually was about: to sell books that are anti-LGBTQ+ books, books that are Christian-centric.”