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Judge denies man's request to dismiss charge for burning LGBTQ books at Orange City library

Judge denies man's request to dismiss charge for burning LGBTQ books at Orange City library

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Book burning

Paul Dorr, a northwest Iowa religious activist, released a Facebook Live video Oct. 19 in which he burned four books from the Orange City Public Library. A still from that video is shown. A judge on Tuesday found him guilty of fifth-degree criminal mischief and fined him $65.

ORANGE CITY, Iowa -- A magistrate has denied a request to dismiss a criminal mischief charge filed against a man who posted an online video showing himself burning LGBTQ-themed books he had checked out from the library.

Paul Dorr had sought the dismissal of a fifth-degree criminal mischief charge, arguing that Sioux County Attorney Thomas Kunstle had singled him out for prosecution while others hadn't been prosecuted for similar conduct. Dorr also had argued that Kunstle was prosecuting him only because of the message Dorr was trying to send with the specific books he chose for his demonstration.

Magistrate Lisa Mazurek ruled that Dorr had failed to prove both elements.

Mazurek said there was little dispute about the facts of the case. Dorr, 63, checked out four books from the Orange City Public Library on Oct. 6 because he found the LGBTQ messages in the books to be offensive.

On Oct. 19, Dorr posted a half-hour long Facebook Live video that showed him tossing the books into a burning barrel. Dorr, director of the Ocheyedan-based group called Rescue the Perishing, said he was protesting a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning celebration in Orange City, the introduction of sexual education into the public schools and some local churches' reluctance to denounce homosexuality.

Dorr, who is representing himself in the case, had argued that other library patrons who do not return books are not prosecuted.

Mazurek said Dorr was not engaging in similar conduct as other library patrons.

"His actions involved the intentional destruction of the library materials that he had checked out. There is no evidence to indicate that any other library patrons who failed to return their library materials intended to destroy those materials or even whether they did destroy them," Mazurek wrote in her order, filed Monday in Sioux County District Court.

Mazurek also said the state has "a legitimate interest" in prosecuting people who destroy property that does not belong to them, and the message that Dorr was intending to send through his actions was not a factor in Kunstle's decision to file the charge.

"Mr. Dorr isn't being sent the message that he cannot burn books when he disagrees with the contents of those books," Mazurek wrote. "He is being sent the message that he cannot burn books that do not belong to him."

Dorr is scheduled to stand trial on Aug. 6. A simple misdemeanor, fifth-degree criminal mischief is punishable by a maximum penalty of 30 days in jail and a $625 fine.

After the burning, the library received hundreds of dollars in cash donations and books from individuals and groups across the country. Library officials have declined to say whether the library has replaced the books.

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