Ten Arlington pastors tell mayor, council’s LGBTQ books ‘influence kids’ into ‘lifestyle’

Ten Arlington pastors tell mayor, council’s LGBTQ books ‘influence kids’ into ‘lifestyle’
Ten Arlington pastors tell mayor, council’s LGBTQ books ‘influence kids’ into ‘lifestyle’

The email, sent on August 24 to city councillors, called for “dialogue” between faith leaders who are concerned that the June Pride month displays, which were on library branches in June 2021, do not align with “family values”.

“We ask that these exhibits not be allowed in our city library. They do not align with the family and faith values ​​of the majority of Arlington parents and are in fact designed to influence children into that lifestyle,” according to the email, titled “Only for your eyes – Request for dialogue – Gay Pride Display aimed at children.”

Co-signers of the emailed letter include Gary Hutchison of Grace Community Church; Maurice Pugh of New Life Fellowship; Richard Martinez of Iglesia Cafe; Dennis Wiles of First Baptist Church Arlington; Marty Collier of Rush Creek; Ronnie Goines of Koinonia Christian Church; Jason Paredes of Fielder Church; Jeff Hubbard of North Davis Church of Christ; Stephen Hammond of Mosaic Church and Eric Herrstrom of Lake Church.

KERA contacted each pastor via e-mail. Neither pastor was available for comment before the time of publication.

The pastors requested a meeting with Mayor Jim Ross and the City Council; however, they were told that they could not meet with all members of the city council at once, as this would require a public meeting.

Seven of the pastors met with Ross, City Manager Trey Yelverton and Library Director Norma Zuniga on September 7. It is unclear which of the seven pastors met with city officials, as documents obtained by KERA News only include Herrstrom’s name on meeting invitations.

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Hutchison told the library’s advisory board on Oct. 6 that he and the other pastors who met with leaders were concerned that identifying as part of the LGBTQ community sends children down a “path of pain.”

“Some of it is caused because they’re not accepted and included in love, and that’s horrible, but some of it is caused just because they go that way,” Hutchison said during the meeting.

The pastors wrote in the email that they were not interested in opposing the LGBTQ community or creating a controversy.

“To be clear, we are not interested in creating a public spectacle, nor are we interested in standing against the LGBTQIA+ community… Our goal in this requested conversation is to protect our community from sexually explicit and suggestive literature which is displayed openly in our public libraries aimed at the children/teenagers of this city,” the letter continues.

However, the topic of LGBTQ pride has resulted in over eight hours of public debate in two meetings of the Arlington Public Library Advisory Board.

The board approved guidelines on Oct. 27 that would limit Pride Month displays to young adult and adult sections and create permanent standing LGBTQ sections for all ages. Members of the library board and city council declared the decision a “compromise”.

The original policy, drawn up by library staff, would have restricted Pride Month displays to the adult section. Zoe Wilkerson, a board member, said Pride displays are curated depending on what is appropriate for each age group of the library. Having an adults-only Pride, she said during the Oct. 6 meeting, could lead to children accessing content deemed inappropriate for their age group.

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Library board meetings take place on the fourth Thursday of each month, although the last meeting – which was canceled due to a lack of quorum – was scheduled for November 10. The board was to discuss exhibition guidelines.

The board was also set to continue the conversation about graphic novels after residents raised concerns about “The Pervert,” written by Michelle Perez and illustrated by Remy Boydell. The novel depicts the life of a trans woman who survives through sex work in Seattle and includes images of sexual acts and nudity.

Zuniga said during the Oct. 27 meeting that “The Pervert” was moved to the adults-only section of the library and that the library will undergo a new screening process for graphic novels and review of existing collections. Zuniga also announced a new parental control feature that will allow parents to limit material to children-only content and/or books for young adults. The library previously offered restrictions for children under 12 against adult books.

For LGBTQ mental health support, call the Trevor Project’s 24/7 toll-free helpline at 866-488-7386. You can also reach a trained crisis counselor through the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by calling 800-273-8255 or texting 741741.

Do you have a tip? Email Kailey Broussard at [email protected] You can follow Kailey on Twitter @KaileyBroussard.

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