Ten Arlington pastors tell mayor council LGBTQ books ‘influencing children’ into ‘way of life’

The email, sent to city council members on Aug. 24, asks for a “dialogue” among religious leaders over concerns that a June 2021 June Pride exhibit at the library branch doesn’t align with “family values.”

“We are asking our city library not to allow these displays. They do not align with the family and faith values ​​of the majority of parents in Arlington, and are actually designed to influence children to adjust to this lifestyle,” the letter, titled “Only For your viewing – request a conversation – gay pride display for children.”

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

KERA contacted each pastor via email. None of the pastors were available for comment ahead of publication.

The pastors requested a meeting with Mayor Jim Ross and the City Council; however, they were told they could not immediately meet with all members of the City Council because doing so would require a public meeting.

On Sept. 7, seven of the pastors met with Ross, city manager Trey Yelverton and library director Norma Zuniga. It’s unclear which of the seven pastors met with city officials, as records received by KERA News only included Hestrom’s name in the meeting invitation.

Hutchison told the library advisory committee on Oct. 6 that he and other pastors who met with leaders feared that identifying children as part of the LGBTQ community puts children on a “painful path.”

“Some of it was because they weren’t accepted and in love, which was horrible, but some of it was because they went down that path,” Hutchison said during the meeting.

The pastors wrote in the email that they were not interested in speaking out against the LGBTQ community or creating controversy.

“To be clear, we are not interested in creating a public spectacle, nor are we interested in speaking out against the LGBTQIA+ community…Our purpose in this requested conversation is to protect our community from public display of pornographic and sexually suggestive literature .Our public library is geared toward the city’s children/youth,” the letter continued.

However, the topic of the LGBTQ pride display was the subject of more than eight hours of public debate at two meetings of the Arlington Public Library Advisory Board.

The Board of Trustees approved a policy on Oct. 27 to limit Pride Month displays to youth and adult sections and create a permanent LGBTQ section for people of all ages. Members of the library board and city council declared the decision a “compromise.”

The original policy, drafted by library staff, restricted Pride Month displays to adults-only areas. Board member Zoe Wilkerson said the Pride displays are curated with content appropriate for all ages in the library. Only adults showing pride could lead to children accessing content deemed inappropriate for their age group, she said at the Oct. 6 meeting.

Library Board meetings are held on the fourth Thursday of each month, but the last meeting – canceled due to lack of quorum – was originally scheduled for November 10. The board should have discussed the presentation guidelines.

The board also plans to continue discussing graphic novels after residents raised concerns about “Metamorphosis,” written by Michelle Perez and illustrated by Remy Boydell. The novel depicts the life of a trans woman surviving sex work in Seattle, including images of sexuality and nudity.

Zuniga said at the Oct. 27 meeting that “Satyr” has moved to the adult-only section of the library, which will implement a new screening process for graphic novels and review existing collections. Zuniga also announced a new parental control feature that allows parents to restrict material to kids-only content and/or young adult books. Libraries previously restricted access to adult books to children 12 and under.

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

Is there a tip? Email Kailey Broussard at kbroussard@kera.org. You can follow Kailey on Twitter @KaileyBroussard.

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