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Ten Arlington pastors told mayor, council LGBTQ books 'influence children' into 'lifestyle'

A rainbow flag hangs in front of a cloudy blue sky.
Kailey Broussard
/
KERA
Karla Palomares speaks to Arlington City Council after draping a rainbow flag over the dais in May. Arlington city officials have spent months discussing the future of LGBTQ Pride month displays in library branches.

Ten Arlington-area pastors urged Mayor Jim Ross and city council to forego LGBTQ Pride month displays in public libraries, according to documents obtained by KERA News.

The email, sent Aug. 24 to city council members, asked for "dialogue" between faith leaders concerned that that June Pride month displays, which stood at library branches in June 2021, do not align with "family values."

"We are asking that those displays not be allowed in our city library. They do not align with the family and faith values of the majority of parents in Arlington and are actually designed to influnece children into that lifestyle," according to the email, titled "For your eyes only - Request for dialogue - Gay Pride Display directed toward 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 reached out to each pastor by email. None of the pastors were available for comment before time of publication.

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

Seven of the pastors met with Ross, City Manager Trey Yelverton and Director of Libraries Norma Zuniga Sept. 7. It is uncertain which of the seven pastors met with city officials, as records received by KERA News contain only Herrstrom's name on meeting invitations.

Hutchison on Oct. 6 told the library advisory board that he and the other pastors who met with leaders were worried that identifying as a part of the LGBTQ community sends children on a "path to 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're going down that path," Hutchison said during the meeting.

The pastors wrote in the email they were not interested in standing against 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 aim in this requested conversation is to guard our community against sexually explicit and suggestive literature that is openly displayed in our public libraries directed toward the children/teens of this city," the letter continues.

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

The board approved policies Oct. 27 that would restrict Pride month displays to young adult and adult sections and create permanently standing LGBTQ sections for all age ranges. Members of the library board and city council declared the decision a "compromise."

The original policy, drafted 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's appropriate for each age-range section of the library. Having an adult-only pride display, she said during the Oct. 6 meeting, could lead children to access content considered inappropriate for their age range.

Library board meetings occur during the fourth Thursday of each month, though the last meeting—which was canceled due to lack of quorum—was scheduled for Nov. 10. The board was supposed to discuss display guidelines.

The board was also slated to continue its conversation about graphic novels after residents brought up concerns about "The Pervert," written by Michelle Perez and illustrated by Remy Boydell. The novel depicts the life of a trans woman surviving through sex work in Seattle and includes images of sexual acts and nudity.

Zuniga said during the Oct. 27 meeting "The Pervert" has been 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 restrict material to children-only content and/or young adult books. The library previously offered restrictions for children 12 and under against adult books.

For LGBTQ mental health support, call the 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 by calling 800-273-8255 or texting 741741.

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

KERA News is made possible through the generosity of our members. If you find this reporting valuable, consider making a tax-deductible gift today. Thank you.

Kailey Broussard is a reporter for KERA and The Texas Newsroom through Report for America (RFA). Broussard covers the city of Arlington, with a focus on local and county government accountability.