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2 South Carolina schools lose funding because of 2 books on gay topics

State Rep. Garry Smith cut $70,000 from two state university budgets in objection to assigned reading of two books that mention homosexuality.
State Rep. Garry Smith cut $70,000 from two state university budgets in objection to assigned reading of two books that mention homosexuality. photo: www.garrysmith.org; books - www.barnesandnoble.com

Two South Carolina universities face minor budget cuts not due to lack of funds, but for moral punishment instead.

The sin? Reading assignments that include references to homosexuality.

On Feb. 19 state Rep. Garry Smith (R-Greenville) called for the House Ways and Means Committee to cut $52,000 from the College of Charleston’s budget, and because “Fun Home,” Alison Bechdel’s memoir of a lesbian raised by a gay father, is included in the summer reading program for incoming freshmen students.

Univ. of South Carolina-Upstate will lose $17,000 in funding for its inclusion of “Out Loud” – a non-fiction piece about “Rainbow Radio,” a program covering LGBT news from a Columbia radio station – as a reading assignment in an English composition class.

Smith’s proposal was passed by 13-10 vote of the committee. The dollar amounts were determined by spending the schools made for those books.

Leaving all smoke and mirrors behind, Smith is direct in his intentions. As he told The State:

“One of the things I learned over the years is that if you want to make a point, you have to make it hurt.”

In further explanations he offered to The Herald, Smith’s objections might seem homophobic, however.

“This is purely promotion of a lifestyle with no academic debate.”

To the Post & Courier, Smith offered:

“(The schools are) promoting gay and lesbian lifestyle.”

Both schools indicate intentions of compliance, but not without objection. College of Charleston professor Christopher Korey, director of the school’s First-Year Experience program, said:

“I’m concerned that some members of the legislature believe their duties include deciding what books should and not be taught in the college classroom.”

USC Upstate’s assistant vice chancellor Tammy Whaley finds the current cut to be additional harm to the school’s budget.

“(The cut harms) the very students the legislators claim to be protecting, since USC Upstate has seen a nearly 50-percent reduction in state funding since 2008.”

Not all House Republicans agreed with Smith, but not enough to prevent the cuts. A motion made by Rep. B.R. Skelton (R-Six Mile) to restore the funding was defeated by a 13-10 vote by the majority-GOP committee.

Rep. Jim Merrill (R-Charleston) voted against Skelton’s amendment, but later agreed the circumstance could be overplayed in status.

“This might make us feel better, but it’s kind of stupid.”

State Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter (D-Orangeburg) told The State that this only-for-show cut could have negative impact on South Carolina in other areas, including economy and employment.

“Do you think for one minute that some companies are going to look seriously at us?”

The basis for the budget cuts also indicate a wrong turn in the role of government, Cobb-Hunter says.

“(W)e need to stop running a dictatorship forcing people to believe what we believe.”

Partisan promotions recently arose at another Palmetto State school. Jameson Broggi, a poli-sci junior at Univ. of South Carolina’s main campus in Columbia, called on state legislators to force state colleges to teach the U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence, citing a 90-year-old law. USC sophomore Anna Chapman, a member of the College Republicans organization, appeared on Fox News with objections to a sociology textbook she finds gives inaccurate depiction of Ronald Reagan.