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A pastor vows to fight Satan’s influence at libraries in comic book hero’s hometown

A pastor vows to fight Satan’s influence at libraries in comic book hero’s hometown
A pastor vows to fight Satan’s influence at libraries in comic book hero’s hometown

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During his sermon in January and in the months since, Anderson has cast his congregation and their God as righteous defenders of Metropolis — and the Library Bill of Rights and its supporters as forces of evil.

If Christians didn’t take a stand, Anderson warned, there would soon be an entire children’s section at the library “dedicated to sexual immorality and perversion.” And before long, he said, the town would be hosting “story hour with some guy that thinks he’s a girl.”

Anderson, who is also a member of the Metropolis City Council, then asked his followers to confirm that they were ready to join him in the fight for decency.

“Amen?” the pastor said.

The congregation called back in unison: “Amen.”


Three days later, Rhonda James pulled up to the Metropolis Public Library and was surprised to find nearly every parking spot filled.

In her 12 years volunteering on the library’s board of trustees — including seven years as its president — James couldn’t recall more than a few residents attending one of the monthly meetings. 

But when she walked inside on the evening of Jan. 16, about 50 people were waiting in the basement meeting room.

“Oh, hi,” James said nervously as she made her way to the front. “I wasn’t expecting you all.”

Rhonda James.
Rhonda James, Metropolis library board president, said she and her fellow members tried to address community concerns about the library’s director without stirring controversy.Bryan Birks for NBC News

James, who’d grown up attending a Baptist church and has hosted a Bible study at her home the past 20 years, didn’t know why the crowd had gathered. She suspected it had something to do with the tension that had been quietly building between the nine-member board of trustees — which is appointed by the mayor and charged with overseeing the library’s operations — and the library’s director, Rosemary Baxter.

Baxter, who did not respond to interview requests, had taken the job in 2021 and quickly earned praise in the community for developing fun and engaging children’s programs. But in recent months, the board had been fielding complaints from residents who said Baxter, a devout Christian, was injecting her religious beliefs into the library’s operations.

Baxter had acknowledged praying aloud with children at the library’s after-school program, which she told the board she did with the permission of parents. She’d put up a nativity display on the library lawn for Christmas and invited a man dressed as Santa to read the Bible to children.

Board members had been pressing Baxter for months to produce a list of book removals and purchases after learning that the library had sold or donated about 15,000 books in recent years, shrinking the overall collection by about a third. The children’s section of the library now had eight versions of the Bible, but only a single picture book about Halloween. Explaining the discrepancy at a public meeting, Baxter said she only removed titles that hadn’t been checked out in several years, then cited her belief in Scripture.

“God said he did not give us a spirit of fear,” Baxter said, alluding to the scary themes sometimes found in Halloween books. “Why would I want to instill that on anyone?”

Rosemary Baxter is the former director of the Metropolis Public Library.
“We are here to serve and to honor God,” Rosemary Baxter said of her work for the Metropolis Public Library.WPSD

But the people now crammed inside the library weren’t there to talk about Baxter or her book selections. Instead, they said they’d come to oppose the board’s plan to adopt the Library Bill of Rights, which they believed would bring drag queen story hour to Metropolis, as Anderson had warned.

“We are concerned our values may be undermined,” said Jim Duncan, a pastor speaking on behalf of an alliance of local faith leaders.

James glanced around at her fellow trustees, most of whom, she said, looked as confused as she was.

“Drag queens in libraries,” James told the crowd, “has never come before this board.”

The Library Bill of Rights, which includes a pledge to provide reading materials representing “all points of view,” does not deal with library programming. Plus, James explained, the board had already adopted the Library Bill of Rights more than a decade ago, long before the new law that made it a requirement for state grant funding. The vote that night was merely to adopt an updated version of the policy that included an additional clause about protecting patrons’ privacy.

The explanation seemed to appease at least a few residents — but not everyone.

Seated alongside the board, Baxter, the library director, argued against the Library Bill of Rights. The Metropolis Public Library didn’t need state funding, she said. In fact, she’d never applied for any state grants during her tenure.

“There are grants we can get,” Baxter said, “where we don’t have to barter with Satan in order to get the funding.”

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