Weird, Winding Trial of Iowa Man Who Burned LGBTQ-Focused Books in Protest Concludes

Bookshelves in an anonymous public library, the contents of which are not, in fact, objects for burning. / Image via ElasticComputeFarm.

As NWIowa reported yesterday, an Iowa man was found guilty of misdemeanor criminal mischief after a 2018 incident in which he burned library books with queer characters and inclusive themes. The man, Paul Robert Dorr, received a small fine and was ordered to pay court costs at the conclusion of his convoluted case.

As Instinct reported last fall, 63-year-old Paul Dorr went to the public library in Orange City, Iowa and, recounts a recent NWIowa report, once there, he checked out four “LGBTQ-themed” books. The books presented LGBTQ-inclusive stories directed at children and young adults, including Two Boys Kissing and Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress


Mr. Dorr had no interest in reading the books. Instead, he decided to burn them “beyond use,” all of which was captured in a video posted to Facebook Live during Orange City’s Pride festival.

Notably, Dorr represents the Rescue the Perishing organization, an anti-LGBTQ Christian fundamentalist group; Dorr appears to be the author of Rescue’s blog, which has blamed the rise of the Nazi Party in Weimar Germany on the normalization of LGBTQ people during Berlin’s interwar years. (As I’ve explained in a book review elsewhere, this is an almost impressively absurd, ahistorical view, but I digress.)

As Dorr quickly learned, destroying public property in protest is more than a bold move, it’s also illegal. After destroying the four library books, Mr. Dorr was arrested and charged. Representing himself in the later stages of the case, Dorr filed dozens of motions throughout 2019, including multiple motions to dismiss the case and motions demanding Magistrate Lisa Mazurek recuse herself from presiding over the proceedings. All of those motions were denied.

(Interestingly, Rescue the Perishing’s blog also goes on at length about the tainted, immoral judges of the American judicial system, and those of Iowa and the Midwest specifically, so at least he seems consistent. Note to future litigants and criminal defendants out there: It’s almost always unwise to represent yourself in court proceedings, even if you’re a lawyer!)


In the end, because the book-burning was Dorr’s first real brush with the law, Magistrate Mazurek “decided not to throw the book” at him, NWestIowa quipped, instead finding Dorr guilty of a single misdemeanor criminal mischief charge and imposing “a $65 fine, a 35 percent surcharge of $22.75 and $60 in court costs.”

Dorr paid the $147.75 in total fines and fees and now can return to whatever he was doing before his book-burning escapade, like romanticizing antebellum-era American ethics. 


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