The bingo card on the left is the one originally distributed by the DeKalb County library system, and it included a prompt to “read a Christian fiction book.” After complaints, the library created new versions that says “Check out a cookbook.” (Tia Mitchell/tia.mitchell@ajc.com)
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Bingo! Patrons say DeKalb library game was offensive to non-Christians

What was supposed to be a fun game to encourage adults to check out materials from DeKalb County libraries more often this summer has turned into a conversation about inclusion and diversity.

Natalie Pereles visited the Toco Hill-Avis G. Williams branch two weeks ago to check out a book when she ran across a bingo-style game for patrons. She took home a sheet with three cards, figuring it would be fun and possibly earn her a prize.

She cracked open the bingo cards and found prompts like “check out a DVD” and “read a romantic book.” But one of the squares said, “Read a Christian fiction book.”

No other religions were mentioned on the bingo cards. Pereles, who is Jewish, took it as another example of people forgetting that many faiths are observed in America other than Christianity. She wondered why the library didn’t provide a more general prompt like “read a religious book” or “read a book on spirituality” instead.

Pereles took her frustrations to Facebook, where she vented about the prompt and asked friends whether she was over-reacting. No, they said. Some shared the complaint on their own social media pages and tagged the library system demanding a response.

One came almost immediately.

“I was very surprised at how quickly it went from me to some other people and to the library,” Pereles said. “I honestly didn’t think anything was going to happen.”

The cards were replaced with a new version that does not have the Christian fiction prompt. In its place the square now says, “Check out a cookbook.”

A spokeswoman for the library system did not grant an interview, but sent a statement to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution acknowledging the bingo game was updated after people on social media complained the cards encouraged reading about one religion over others. That wasn’t the intent and new cards were distributed to all branches last week, the statement said.

“The Christian fiction square represented a genre in our collection and has since been removed from the card,” the statement said. “The DeKalb Library offers many genres of reading material that adhere to our diverse community and religions.”

The same bingo cards were printed last year, and the library didn’t receive any complaints, according to the spokeswoman.

Leah Fuhr was one of Pereles’ friends who saw the post and asked the library to respond. Also Jewish, she said Christians often fail to understand how much Christian faith is privileged in American society, such as having days off for major religious holidays.

The bingo cards were offensive to people who would not want to read Christian fiction, either because they are of another faith or have no faith at all, Fuhr said.

“I try to bring awareness to the community and to people I surround myself with that not everybody is Christian,” Fuhr said. “And if we’re trying to reference religion or faith in general, we should be more inclusive and use our words carefully to be more inclusive of other faiths, other cultures, other religions. People that might think differently.”

 

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