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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. Dorr has pleaded not guilty to fifth-degree criminal mischief, a simple misdemeanor. 

ORANGE CITY, Iowa -- Paul Dorr made it clear. The Northwest Iowa religious activists will not be replacing or paying for any of the four LGBTQ books from the Orange City Public Library he burned in protest of a gay pride festival on Oct. 19. 

The destruction puts the library in an odd position. Normally, a lost or very-overdue library book is handled with fines, and, if a book is lost or stolen, the borrower is asked to reimburse the library.

Orange City library director Amanda Vazquez said library officials will handle this situation by the book, so to speak. 

"We do have policies in place for books that are not returned to the library once they are due," Vazquez said. "That is part of our circulation policy." 

Vazquez said the library has yet to decide whether to replace the four children's books -- David Levithan's "Two Boys Kissing"; Suzanne and Max Lang's "Families, Families, Families!"; Gayle E. Pitman's "This Day in June"; and Christine Baldacchino's "Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress." 

"We're exploring our options at this point," she told the Journal in an interview last week. 

Dorr, director of the Ocheyedan, Iowa-based religious group Rescue the Perishing, made a Facebook Live video denouncing the library for having the LGBTQ books in its holdings. In the 28-minute video, made during the first day of the OC Pride LGBTQ festival in Orange City, he threw the four books into a burning barrel. 

The video and Rescue the Perishing's Facebook page appear to have been removed from the social media site since then. 

According to the Orange City library's policy on overdue books, a fine of 10 cents accrues each day a book isn't renewed after a three-week checkout period. Once an individual accrues a fine of more than $2.01, library privileges are revoked. 

Once a book has been overdue for 28 days, a letter with an itemized bill of costs and materials will be sent. After 60 days, a certified letter with an itemized bill and a "notification of criminal action" is sent to the borrower. 

If the borrower fails to respond to that notification, the library director may contact law enforcement or the county attorney about the theft of the book. 

Based on the relatively low value of the books, Dorr could be charged with fifth-degree theft, a simple misdemeanor. If convicted, he could face a fine of between $65 and $625, 30 days in jail, or both. 

In the aftermath of the book burning, people across the country expressed outrage at Dorr's actions.

Many expressed interest in donating to the library in the aftermath of the video. Vazquez said a few hundred dollars' worth of donations have rolled in, as well as some books.  

The library faced criticism earlier this year, when members of the conservative, historically Dutch Reformed community spoke out against LGBTQ books held by the library.

"As a congregation, I would have to say we are shocked that tax money is being used to push this agenda even further," the Rev. Sacha Walicord, pastor of Grace Reformed Presbyterian Church, said during a public meeting in February. "As pastors, we have been silent for far too long. We have rolled over for far too long. This ends now."

At the time, library critics were upset by books like "Morris Mickelwhite and the Tangerine Dress," in which a boy wears a dress. Some accused the library of trying to "indoctrinate" youth and promote "transgender normalization." 

In response to the uproar, this spring the library changed its classification system and opted to arrange books by subject and category instead of alphabetically by the author's name.

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