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Community calling for pastor’s resignation after local author controversy

by Chanel Rowe
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Originally Published: 19 MAR 24 09:48 ET

By James Felton and Hannah Mose

Click here for updates on this story

    BEAL CITY, Michigan (WNEM) — There has been uproar from the community after story time at a mid-Michigan elementary school led to a controversial Facebook post, not because of the story that was read, but the person who read it.

Dominic Thrasher is an openly gay man who, earlier this month, was invited by a teacher to read his book to preschoolers at St. Joseph the Worker School in Beal City.

The book reading went as planned with no issues. Then a week later, Father Tom Held found out about it, and that’s where the controversy began.

In a Facebook post that has since been deleted, Father Tom Held, pastor of the St. Joseph the Worker Church, alerted parents and parishioners that a guest who he said “does not represent the values of our Catholic faith read to our Pre-K children as part of March is Reading Month.”

Held went on to say that he was unaware the guest had been invited and would put a new vetting policy in place to minimize this from happening again.

Author Dominic Thrasher said the Facebook post defamed him, making him look like a predator or ex-convict.

“These Catholic institutions are the ones that are inviting me there because of my successes. But then the moment I come there and share in the gifts and glory that I have achieved, and wanting to share and be inspirational to other children, adults, then I get slammed and treated like I’m worthless, and disgusting, and horrible,” Thrasher said.

The Diocese of Saginaw released the following statement last week:

St. Joseph the Worker School recently had a guest visit a classroom to read to children during March Reading Month. The guest was warmly welcomed and treated with respect. Several days after the visit, the pastor of St. Joseph the Worker Parish was contacted by school parents and parishioners who expressed concerns about the guest’s civil union, which is contrary to the Catholic Church’s teaching on human sexuality and marriage. The pastor appropriately responded to those concerns within the parish community in a way that recognized the guest’s privacy.

Our Catholic Faith respects the dignity of every person. The Church teaches we are all created in the image and likeness of God and called to love one another. With that love comes our obligation to uphold and live the teachings of the Catholic Faith, individually and within our institutions.

As for Thrasher, he said a person’s sexuality should not justify an attack on their character.

“It’s very hurtful. And I’m very angry,” he said.

Some community members in the Mt. Pleasant and Beal City area said they’re outraged by the actions of Held, and they want him to resign.

Part of Held’s Facebook post stated Thrasher does not represent the values of the Catholic faith, but people TV5 spoke to said their values are much different.

“He does not represent our community. He represents the Diocese of Saginaw. His views are not ours, they’re not the same,” said Charlie Gross, a parent at St. Joseph the Worker School.

He is demanding that Held resign, saying his Facebook post condemning Thrasher was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

According to the Diocese of Saginaw, parents and parishioners reached out to Held raising concerns.

“I don’t believe that there were actually any parents that contacted him and said, ‘Oh, we would need to do something about this.’ I don’t believe that was true, not from any parents that I’ve heard from, and I’ve heard from quite a few,” Gross said.

Erin Ervin helped organize a peaceful protest that took place Sunday calling for Held’s resignation.

“Father Tom is not appropriate. He’s not approachable. He’s outdated. He’s losing parishioners. And the comments he’s made over the last five years are dangerous and he needs to be removed,” she said.

And Cathy Fortier, owner of The Barn Door, said there is no way she can ever donate a gift card, a dinner, or her time for any future events associated with St. Joseph the Worker until Held is removed.

“It’s his time to go before he makes that church just a building of emptiness, or a building of nothing but hate,” she said.

As for Gross, he said Held has overstayed his welcome in this community, and it’s time for the Diocese of Saginaw to lead St. Joseph the Worker in a different direction.

“They’ve made one individual greater than our church, our school, and our community. And that’s not right,” he said.

The Diocese of Saginaw responded to TV5 regarding calls for Held’s resignation, saying that this is a personnel issue and they do not respond publicly to those.

As of Monday, March 18, it was unclear what — if anything — will happen regarding Held’s position.

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St. Joseph the Worker Church

Embargo: Flint-Saginaw-Bay City, MI; **This image is for use with this specific article only** A Beal City, Michigan community is calling for the pastor of the St. Joseph the Worker Church to resign after a local author controversy.

WNEM via CNN Newsource

19 Mar 24

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