Book burning is an extreme act of intolerance and a direct attack on the freedom to learn. If you don’t like a book, don’t read it or, better yet, write something yourself explaining your objections. Setting books on fire is the height of anti-intellectualism. And at the risk of violating Godwin’s Law, I should note that it is literally something that the Nazis did.
As bad as book burning is, there’s a way to make it worse: burning books that are public property – especially when someone does it as a means to force their religious views on the public.
Yet that’s just what an anti-abortion, anti-LGBTQ activist in Orange City, Iowa, did last week. Paul Dorr was upset because OC Pride, a local LGBTQ rights group, was holding a festival that included a story time for children. For some reason, Dorr thought it would be a good idea to protest by checking four LGBTQ-themed books out of the library and setting them on fire.
Dorr was obviously proud of his actions. He made a live video of the event and posted it to Facebook. The Des Moines Register reported that most of the video depicts Dorr reading a post from an anti-LGBTQ blog. At the end, he tosses at least four books into a fire contained in a trashcan. Dorr claims he got the books from the Orange City Public Library.
“I cannot stand by and let the shameful adults at the Orange City Library Board bring the next group of little children into their foul, sexual reality without a firm resistance,” Dorr states during the video.
Some of the titles Dorr consigned to the flames were targeted by religious conservatives earlier this year. They were singled out by local residents who created a flier headlined, “Homosexual/Transgender promoting materials in Orange City Library! Some aimed at pre-K kids, using YOUR tax dollars!” The effort was accompanied by a petition demanding that the titles be placed on restricted access.
Amanda Vazquez, the library’s director, told the Register she alerted the library’s board as soon as she learned of Dorr’s video. She also talked to officials at the Orange City Police Department, and they’re said to be looking into the matter. The police, the Register reported, are “discussing legal action.”
I certainly hope so – and they should start by arresting Dorr. Those library books were public property. Their destruction by an intolerant Religious Right zealot who yearns to control what other people see, read and learn isn’t just an example of his narrow-mindedness – it’s also illegal.
The good people of Orange City have the fundamental right to make their own decisions about faith and social issues -- and how they’ll teach their children about both. A malicious, ignorant and dangerous vandal doesn’t get to make those choices for them.
(Photo: In a video posted on the Facebook page of his organization Rescue the Perishing, Paul Dorr burns Orange City, Iowa, Public Library books with LGBTQ content.)