Tess Hemmila—Staff Writer
Orange City has been riddled with controversy in recent weeks regarding a petition that calls for the labeling and relocation of LGBTQ literature to a specific section.
The petition was started by the Sioux County Conservatives and Professor Chi of Northwestern College. The petition calls for the labeling and separate shelving of materials that deal with LGBTQ issues, an online rating service to advise patrons about the materials they check out and a halt on the acquisition of LGBTQ books until a community conversation can be had about the books in question.
The Orange City Public Library board held their monthly meeting on Feb. 20 and was attended by a large number of local residents. There was a period of 40 minutes open for public comment in which 20 community members voiced a variety of opinions on the issue.
Sacha Walicord, a Dordt business professor, stands with the petition and spoke up in support of it at the board meeting.
“I don’t think it [the petition] is only justified, but also demanded from a Christian perspective,” Walicord said. “As Christians, we have to stand up to sinful behavior, but it’s also important to avoid hypocrisy and address sin among our own.”
Some of the community interest in this petition could be a reaction to OC Pride, a gay pride event held in Oct. of 2017 in Orange City. The event was the first ever held in the small conservative town. OC Pride was organized by members of the local community and garnered some controversy both in the community and online. One of the organizers of OC Pride, Mike Goll, has voiced his opinion in opposition of the petition.
“There are gay kids, there are trans kids in this town, and seeing their faces and lives mirrored in some of the books here means everything,” Goll said at the Feb. 20 meeting.
Sioux County Conservatives have been vocal in their stand against the LGBTQ literature. The organization’s Facebook feed has over 15 posts concerning the petition, some showing images of the books to which they object.
Professor Chi closed the online petition on Feb. 17 after a flier was circulated to Orange City residents without his permission. The flier had the petition on one side and what professor Chi called “vicious rhetoric” on the other. Chi has several statements on the website saying that he disavows the “antagonistic fliers” that were distributed to the community by people associated with Sioux County Conservatives and the “inflammatory rhetoric” that was attached.
Many Dordt professors have weighed in on the issue as residents of Sioux County. One such professor, Matt Drissell, believes that the literature should not be labeled or removed from the library.
“Freedom of access to information is an American right,” Drissell said. “Limiting access to these materials goes against the American spirit.”
According to English professor Mary Dengler, the banning of literature by subject has never been a good practice.
“I prefer to judge each work of literature individually and in the same way,” Dengler said. “It’s best to evaluate if the work provides a good look at human nature, what it shows us about the human condition and where it leaves readers at the end.”
According to the Director of the Orange City Public library, Amanda Vazquez, the library board will begin “reviewing the library’s Collection Development policy, and it will likely be an agenda item at the March meeting.”