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May 29, 2024

In Superman’s ‘hometown,’ a pastor vows to fight Satan’s influence at the local library

In Superman’s ‘hometown,’ a pastor vows to fight Satan’s influence at the local library

A week later, the board went into a closed session and presented Baxter with an ultimatum: If she wanted to keep her job, she needed to sign a performance improvement plan. It stipulated that she would abide by the Library Bill of Rights, seek state grant funding and discontinue praying aloud with children and other religious activities at the library.

Baxter refused to sign and began to criticize the board. Voices were raised, according to three members.

After a few minutes, James, the board president, slammed her fist on the table.

“This is not up for debate, Rosemary,” she said. “Either sign it, or don’t.”

Baxter stood up and left.

Minutes later, the board came out of closed session.

By a vote of 5-3, they terminated Baxter’s employment.

Baxter’s departure left the library in turmoil. Four employees resigned soon after, and the board got to work picking up the pieces. 

They brought on a former library employee to serve as interim director and embarked on top-to-bottom reviews of the library’s catalog and finances.

“Our focus,” James said, “is making sure our library is strong and healthy and there to serve everyone.”

Then, on March 19, the story of Baxter’s firing was picked up by Blaze Media, a national conservative outlet. In a column titled, “A librarian’s faithful service is silenced by a secularist takeover,” conservative talk radio host Steve Deace interviewed Baxter and Anderson and reported that both had come under fire for their Christian beliefs.

Deace presented the local saga as a warning that evil forces were now coming for small-town America and blamed the problems in Metropolis, in part, on “a California transplant who is living with another man,” referring to Loverin, the library board member.

Three days later, Metropolis Mayor Don Canada — who in 2021 had appointed Anderson, his pastor, to an open seat on the City Council — took a stand of his own.

In letters addressed to James and two other board members, Canada announced that he’d “lost faith in the Board in its current state.” As a result, he was removing James and two others who’d voted to terminate Baxter. 

Metropolis Mayor Don Canada said the library board is in need of a “fresh start.”City of Metropolis

Canada declined to be interviewed, writing in an email, “I have no comment on the Library or the Library board.” In an interview with Deace, Canada said he removed the members because “we need a fresh start.”

The mayor’s decision shocked some residents and drew a rebuke from Illinois Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias, a Democrat who also serves as the state librarian.

“Retaliating against local library trustees, who are dedicated to serving their community and assisting children in learning, is unacceptable,” Giannoulias wrote.

The mayor’s action was not only controversial; it also appeared to be improper.

At a City Council meeting three days later, a local lawyer who previously served as a Metropolis city attorney explained that, under Illinois law, the mayor cannot unilaterally remove political appointees. He is required to level charges against board members he wants removed and seek approval from the City Council.

Heeding that advice, the council voted to table the dismissals. Later, one of the board members targeted for removal resigned, creating a vacancy for the mayor to fill. In an email this week to NBC News, Canada said he planned to put off a decision on whether to replace the other two board members until this summer.

While the members wait to learn their fate, the fighting has some questioning their future in Metropolis.

Loverin said he feels tense when strangers approach him in public, afraid that one of the people who has accused him of pushing an anti-Christian agenda might confront him.

“I love the people here, but I don’t want to be in a place where I feel intimidated,” he said. “But then it’s like, ‘Well, I’m kind of letting them win.’ And I don’t want to do that.”

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