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‘Family’ reading night dips into controversy

Selections will be by author of book banned by board

ERIE – Joel Papineau said he’s the only parent in Erie courageous enough to reserve a room at Erie Public Library for retired teachers to read books to families.

The act took bravery because the former teachers will read books Monday by author Todd Parr.

Parr wrote “The Family Book,” which in May was banned by the school board from Erie schools because of the sentence, “Some families have two moms or two dads.”

Papineau, 39, has two sons who attend Erie schools, one in preschool and one in first grade. A parent was needed to reserve a room at Erie Public Library for the monthly family reading night.

Papineau said he heard through the grapevine that no other local parents wanted to reserve the library room for the reading of Parr’s books because they feared it would damage their reputation.

An Army combat veteran, Papineau said that during his service, he defended the United States Constitution. The freedom of speech it provides, he said, is under assault from Erie churches that are attacking Parr’s book.

“The churches have the town up in arms about the book,” he said. “What this country is built on is freedom of religion and freedom of speech, but it’s the church that has caused all these problems in this town.”

When asked which churches are responsible, he said Erie has three Christian churches that have voiced their opinions on Parr’s book, and “they’re all in cahoots.”

Papineau said he does not know whether “The Family Book” will be one of the four or five Parr books read Monday, but it doesn’t matter: To read any Parr book in Erie is an act of defiance, he said.

“Any time that Todd Parr is brought up, it is like a lynch mob with this community,” he said.

“It’s not a church school,” he said. “It’s a public school. If you have a problem with the government, you need to send your kids to a private school.”

“How can a reading story time be bad for our kids?” he asked. “There’s nothing sexual, there’s nothing orientating [in the book]. There are kids who have two moms, two dads. It’s 2012, not 1947. It’s time to move on, and the church and the state need to be separated.”

Papineau said he has traveled around the world and has “seen a lot of stuff.”

“It’s nothing to be up in arms about,” he said. “It’s ridiculous. I see nothing wrong with defending the Constitution of the United States. The church needs to know their place.”

Papineau said he used to attend an Erie church, but its interference in the issue has caused him to rethink his religious beliefs.

“I don’t stand for organized religion trying to force their powerful hand on a public school system,” he said.

Papineau said he did not know whether the retired teachers were trying to make a statement to the school board by choosing Parr’s books as their reading material. He did not know which retired teachers will read, or which school district they have retired from, he said.

While the free reading is given every month, retired teachers are not always the readers, he said.

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