(New York, NY) — PEN America voiced serious concern today over reports that April Powers, previously chief equity and inclusion officer at the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), resigned under pressureas a result of a statement condemning anti-Semitism that triggered vociferous online outrage, on the basis that it failed to address other types of religious or ethnic animus. 

PEN America issued the following statement:

“Issuance of a factual public statement within the scope of a professional’s job should not be grounds for discipline or resignation under pressure. Biases and bigotries take on many variations and targets—anti-Black racism, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, homophobia, sexism, and other forms each have their own distinct characteristics and are worthy of forceful denunciation in their own right. The fight for human rights and dignity must oppose such hatreds in all their forms. 

“Absent any such indication, the condemnation of one form of hatefulness should not be read to imply indifference toward others. Complex and divisive issues are best addressed through reasoned dialogue, which can include heated debate. Ad hominem attacks, harassment, vitriol, and threats stifle debate, creating regrettable cycles of spiraling censoriousness that can silence important perspectives. We call on SCBWI to clarify the circumstances of Powers’s departure from the organization and to make clear its unequivocal, unapologetic denunciation of anti-Semitism, and of other forms of bigotry.”