A man who filmed himself burning four LGBTQ-themed children’s and young-adult books belonging to an Iowa library last year has received the minimum penalty for his action.
Paul Dorr, 63, of the northwest Iowa town of Ocheyedan, was convicted of fifth-degree criminal mischief Tuesday in Sioux County District Court, Iowa Public Radio reports. Magistrate Lisa Mazurek fined him $65, the minimum for the offense, even though the prosecutor, Sioux County Attorney Thomas Kunstle, requested that Dorr be fined the maximum of $625. Dorr was also ordered to pay a 35 percent criminal penalty surcharge and court costs.
In October of last year, Dorr, who runs a right-wing Christian group called Rescue the Perishing, posted a video to social media that showed him burning four books he had checked out from the Orange City Public Library. The books were Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan, This Day in June by Gayle Pitman, Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress by Christine Baldacchino, and Families, Families, Families! by Suzanne Lang. He made anti-LGBTQ comments as he was burning them. His action was primarily in protest of a Pride festival being held in Orange City, a town of about 6,000.
Dorr, who represented himself in the nonjury trial, declined to speak to media outlets afterward but issued a statement saying, “My motive was to honor the Triune God in whom my faith resides and to protect the children of Orange City from being seduced into a life of sin and misery,” according to Iowa Public Radio.
Courtney Reyes, executive director of LGBTQ group One Iowa, also released a statement after the trial: “Libraries are safe havens where every person has free access to all ideas and expressions without restriction. Dorr intended to deprive the children of Orange City that access, to isolate LGBTQ youth from reflections of themselves in stories, to take from all youth the opportunity to empathize with people different than themselves. Such an act is terrible, and we are glad justice was served today.”
Rita Bettis Austen, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Iowa affiliate, likewise condemned Dorr’s action, saying, “Burning public library books is the destruction of ideas, and that’s reprehensible. The destruction of books from a public library is a clear attempt to shut down the open sharing and discussion of ideas. No one person or even group should decide that they are the gatekeepers of ideas for the rest of the public.”
After Dorr posted his video, booksellers and members of the public responded with support for the library. It received donations of between 800 and 1,000 books, including copies of those he burned, and $3,700 in cash, Iowa Public Radio reports. It added fewer than 50 of the books to its collection, however, and sold or returned the others.