An image used as part of a Pioneer Library System promotional campaign has come under fire from a Norman man who says it promotes the religion of Islam.
Chad Grensky said he recently voiced his concerns to a leader with the Norman-based library system after seeing an image of a woman wearing a hijab emblazoned on the side of a library system vehicle. Many Muslim women wear hijabs or head scarfs as a sign of their Islamic faith.
Grensky said he told Ann Masters, Pioneer Library System executive director, that the image was a violation of First Amendment ‘separation of Church and state’ because the library system is a taxpayer funded entity. He said he saw the vehicle sporting the image parked outside a Norman post office about a week and a half ago, and he thought it appeared to promote one religion.
Grensky said he is a Coast Guard veteran who worked alongside devout Muslims with the Bangladesh army during a peacekeeping mission to Haiti, and he has no ill will toward people of the Islamic faith.
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However, he said he asked Masters to have the image removed or include images of people of other religions in the library promotional campaign.
“That’s my only issue is we’re not being fair across the board. It’s a simple fix,” Grensky said.
Masters said the image featuring the woman wearing a hijab is one of 20 featured on library system vehicles as part of the organization’s “Good Things Coming My Way” campaign which began in 2015.
She said the library system has 11 vehicles and 10 of them have a different promotional image from the campaign on each side. Master said library system employees use the vehicles to make outreach visits and to travel to training and conference events. The car featuring the image Grensky complained about is typically in Shawnee but was recently driven to Norman by an employee attending a training event there, she said.
“There are a total of 20 different images that demonstrate young people and older people, people of different cultures and races. Each image is unique and different. What they have in common is that they all have either a book or an iPad or something seen to be the use of a service of the library. Each vehicle has the words ‘Good Things Coming My Way,’ ” Masters said.
“What we were trying to express through those words and those images was that regardless of age or gender or race or nationality or disability or other cultural connections, the library welcomes people with each of these ties to the community. We didn’t intend to promote any religious belief and we don’t think we did. We don’t view the image as an endorsement or disapproval of any religious belief.”
Masters said she spoke with Grensky about his concerns.
“He felt that we were spending taxpayers’ money to promote a religion and we didn’t feel that’s what we were doing. I told him we would talk to our attorney because we wanted to do the right thing,” she said.
Masters said the library system’s attorney said the display of the image in question does not violate the First Amendment. She said the library system has not yet decided what action it will take regarding the depiction.
Grensky said he snapped several pictures of the library system vehicle while it was parked at the post office. He said he posted the pictures on his Facebook page and has received comments from people all over the country, with about 50 percent of them agreeing with him and 50 percent saying his complaint has no merit.
The Pioneer Library System serves Cleveland, McClain and Pottawatomie counties.
Saad Mohammed, board president of the Council on American-Islamic Relations-Oklahoma chapter, said he could see Grensky’s point about featuring images connected to other faiths. However, he said he did not see the promotional image as a First Amendment violation.
“The people picked that image for reason, and they have the freedom to do so,” he said.