One of Germany's largest media companies, Weltbild, is owned and operated by the German Catholic Church. Yet in spite of carrying LGBT content and also publishing straight erotica, it has abruptly dropped a local independent queer publishing house without a proper explanation.
Vancouver-based Icon Empire Press has published titles ranging from Would You Mind?, a story of family acceptance of a male teenager falling in love with another male high school student, and The Gay Icon Classics of the World to The Gay Travel Guide for Tops and Bottoms. Publicist Robert Christofle said by phone that none of their titles are erotica.
Germany's Weltbild had carried Icon Empire's books for a year, including Crossover II: Straight Men-Gay Encounters and This High School Has Closets (which are still listed on their site).
Weltbild also carries numerous other LGBT titles, primarily nonfiction, ranging from The Survival Guide for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning Teens to The C.A.M.P. Guide to Sex and the Single Gay and Bigger Than Life: The History of Gay Porn Cinema from Beefcake to Hardcore.
Weltbild sent an email on June 10 to inform Icon Empire that it has reversed its decision to carry their books.
The email states "As a company owned by the catholic church of Germany our leadership is devoted to rather traditional values und [sic] thus has decided not to sell your titles."
Christofle said they were confused by the explanation.
An English translation of a statement in German issued by Weltbild to Spiegel Online reads: "We ask for your understanding that we are like other booksellers also reserve the right not to conduct individual titles and publishers for different reasons." A company spokesperson declined any further statement.
Amid a flurry of German press coverage, Christofle said they also received an anonymous phone call from man who said that the Catholic Church was monitoring anti-Catholic activity. The man cited references to Rabbi Greenberg's comments in The Gay Icon Classics of the World (regarding the short story "Halo's Golden Circle" which takes place in biblical Judea) and in The Forbidden Scroll, which includes a debate about whether heterosexual or homosexual love is better and statements with regard to Greek philosophers (which the caller said undermines "family values").
Shortly before Weltbild dropped them, Christofle said, they had sent a copy of The Forbidden Scroll, about a prince and his male scribe who fall in love.
Weltbild has faced controversy and criticism over the past decade, including from Catholics, for publishing over 2,500 heterosexual erotica titles.
In 1998, Weltbild merged with five other companies that publish pornographic titles. Among those companies are Droemer Knaur, which has published Nimm mich hier und nimm mich jetzt! (Take Me Here, Take Me Now!) and Sag Luder zu mir! (Call Me Slut!), and Blue Panther Books, with titles such as Schlampen-Internat (Sluts' Boarding School), Vögelbar (Fuckable), and Anwaltshure (Lawyer's Whore).
Christofle said his company is turning to the Canadian government for help.
"We're asking the Canadian government to really step in on this. The mandate by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs…for 2013-2014 is to promote equality and to promote Canadian businesses, and we really hope that they assist us in this situation because it's not fair…."
He said he's hoping the government will help them ask libraries to purchase the books to minimize the financial hit that they will have to take.