Dozens of inserts made to look like counterfeit bills were found in multiple books from the Curtis Memorial Library in Brunswick. (Kathleen O’Brien / The Times Record)

BRUNSWICK — Jeoff Feiss of Harpswell may have been hoping for a little enlightenment about Jewish-American life when he checked out Herman Wouk’s “Inside Outside” from Brunswick’s Curtis Memorial Library. But when he opened the novel, he found something disturbing.

Someone had left inserts resembling counterfeit bills featuring New Testament Bible passages that Feiss, who is Jewish on his father’s side, said “felt very invasive and downright creepy.”

“Someone very intentionally wanted to confront the reader with a message,” Feiss said.

Library officials contacted police last week after more than 90 of the bills were found in five books written by Jewish authors.

Library Executive Director Elisabeth Doucett said the bills “make the library an intimidating place when the library is supposed to be a safe, comfortable and welcoming environment for everyone.”

Brunswick Police Cmdr. Mark Waltz said leaving the bills in the books is not a crime because the books weren’t damaged.

He called it a “bias incident, which means whoever did this has a bias against a particular group of people.”

“There’s nothing else we can do,” Waltz said. “The Constitution gives people free speech.”

Some of the material left in the books resembles counterfeit $100 bills. Others purport to be $500 notes from “The Confederate States of America,” featuring a Confederate flag and the Star of David. Both types of bills include the same New Testament Bible passages.

Rev. Tom Murphy of Brunswick’s All Saints’ Parish identified the bills as “a common practice of extremely conservative evangelical Christians.”

Murphy said the verses from the Book of John printed on the bills are “used as a weapon to say someone will go to hell (for not following Jesus). … It’s working out of a very narrow mindset that there’s only one way to get to heaven.”

This was the first time the inserts were found at the Curtis Memorial Library, but both the Freeport and Topsham Public Libraries have seen the same inserts placed in their books for years.

Multiple library directors said they don’t have a way to catch who is placing the bills in the books because they don’t have security cameras in the aisles of the library. Whoever places them there does so while in the library, rather than taking the books out.

Susan Preece, director of the Topsham Public Library, said she has seen the same bills appear sporadically over the past five years. She says the library has a policy against leaving things in books and the staff flips through books as they place them back on shelves, but not all of the inserts are caught.

“The library is open to the public and the public is all kinds of people with all kinds of views,” Preece said. “I don’t want people to feel it’s endorsed in any way by the library because it’s not. Personally, I’m offended.”

Arlene Arris, director of the Freeport Public Library, has seen the bills appear in waves for at least 20 years but never reported it to police.

“We’ve had a few complaints, but we don’t know how to track it,” Arris said. “Until someone takes that book out, we don’t know it’s there. It could’ve been there for years. It’s very frustrating.”

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