by Elisha Meyer
Concordia’s Plum Creek Literacy Festival’s Children’s Festival and the Adult Conference, scheduled for Friday and Saturday on campus, have been canceled after multiple authors and illustrators withdrew due to allegations of discrimination.
The announcement was made by Dr. Dylan Teut, executive director of the festival, and posted on Concordia’s website and social media pages.
The allegations surfaced after a book from one of the presenting authors, Eliot Schrefer, was not included in one of the pre-festival sale list. The book, “The Darkness Outside Us” was removed from the sale, which Schrefer said was a discriminatory action.
“He thought it was a discriminatory reason his book wasn’t included, which was not the case,” said Seth Meranda, senior director of marketing and communications.
Meranda reported that the reason the book was not included was due to the book’s content being deemed inappropriate for his target audience at the festival.
“His book was actually a book that’s for older children, young adults actually,” Meranda said. “And he was presenting to a younger audience. So, the reason his book wasn’t included was because of the age-appropriate content.”
Schrefer posted on Twitter Monday that he saw his book, which is about two boys in love, was not included on the book list. He asked for clarification and while he waited for a response, he found online that the CUNE Student Handbook affirmed that sex is intended by God to occur within the boundaries of marriage between one man and one woman.
The Concordia Student Handbook does include a statement that sexual activity outside of marriage is a sin and that active involvement in a homosexual lifestyle is among activites that are inappropriate. It said “deviation from biblical standards for sexuality is sin and provides an opportunity for repentence, grace and redemption.”
Schrefer canceled his participation in response, a move that was followed by enough authors and illustrators that the event was canceled.
“I hate to let down readers, but I cannot in good conscience contribute to the campus life of an institution that calls for ‘disciplinary intervention’ for those students who have ‘active involvement in a homosexual lifestyle,'” Schrefer tweeted on Monday.
On Tuesday, a statement was posted on the Plum Creek Literacy Festival Twitter feed that said: “We are saddened to lose several gifted authors who decided to withdraw from Plum Creek after learning the policies of Concordia University, Nebraska, our host site. While the festival won’t be the same without them, we respect their decision and value their feedback.”
The post continued:
“The Plum Creek Literacy Festival has a long history of featuring authors, illustrators and books that represent a wide range of content, beliefs, characters and stories. The mission of Plum Creek has always been to further literacy, and this includes learning through stories and realities of diverse people and perspectives. We continue to strive for Plum Creek to be a community that embraces learning across differences, recognizing the importance of literacy in our diverse cultures.
“As part of the discussion on social media, the Student Code of Conduct at Concordia University, Nebraska, the festival’s host site, was shared. In the more than 26 years of the festival’s existence, the Concordia Student Code of Conduct has not impacted nor informed the Plum Creek Literacy Festival’s mission or event programming.”
CUNE President Bernard Bull was not expected to make comments Wednesday night concerning the festival’s cancellation.
A mini-festival scheduled for Thursday at Miller Park in Omaha was scheduled to go forward as planned