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GOP congressman falsely claims the Bible was "banned from all of us" in 1963
Rep. Burgess Owens of Utah told the lie during a hearing about books in school libraries
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Congressman Burgess Owens, a 72-year-old Utah Republican, claimed during a hearing yesterday that the Bible was banned from schools in 1963.
That’s a lie.
The comment came during a hearing of the Committee on Education and the Workforce’s Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education. While other Republicans in Congress were involved in the messy race over Speaker of the House, Owens and his colleagues were discussing how to protect children from “graphic, explicit content in school libraries.”
Near the end of the hearing, Owens chimed in by suggesting the Bible didn’t deserve to be banned… even though it has never been banned.
Some say that we are here today to talk about so-called book [banning] in K-12 school libraries when [one of] our nation's most consequential books, banning was done by the Supreme Court in 1963, when officially mandated Bible reading—this book—[was] banned from all of us. Anything that deals with federal, it’s no longer can see it, can no longer read it.
Matter of fact, there some that are listening today, probably think this is totally unconstitutional, that I can even hold it up. Due to the [banning] of this book, generations of Americans today have no knowledge of the tenets upon which this country has been founded. Tenets based on the belief that, with God in time, we can truly become a more perfect union.
They banned the knowledge of basic truths of happiness, like the Judeo-Christian concepts of the golden rule which says we should treat others the way we want to be treated. Or banned the knowledge of the Ten Commandments, among these, thou shall not steal, thou shall not kill, thou shall not commit adultery, thou shall honor thy father and mother.
We instead find the greatest disdain for these laws wherever Democrats rule…
That’s an impressive number of lies packed into just a couple of minutes.
Owens is referring to Abington School District v. Schempp, the 1963 Supreme Court decision that ended school-sponsored Bible readings in public schools. “School-sponsored” is an important distinction to make because all it means is that Christianity can’t be treated like a school’s official religion. Given that students of all faiths and no faith attend public school, it’s absurd to pretend Christianity represents everybody.
But what Owens deliberately fails to understand is that the 1963 decision was strictly limited to what schools pushed on kids. Students who want to read the Bible in school on their own time are perfectly free to do so. Teachers who want to pray to Jesus on their own time are perfectly free to do so. Teachers who want to reference the Bible for academic reasons, like dissecting a verse for an English class or discussing how the Garden of Eden is referenced in classical literature, are not going to face a lawsuit. Hell, they can even teach the Bible as literature as long as it’s done objectively.
On the flip side, it’s not like atheism is the official religion of public schools either. (No teacher is actually demanding that kids say, “There is no God!” God’s Not Dead is not a documentary.)
Even American Atheists jumped in to comment:
While we’re at it, literally no one thinks it’s unconstitutional for Owens to hold up a copy of the Bible during a congressional hearing. We may question his strategy, or wonder why Owens is wasting everyone’s time, or ask ourselves how the hell someone this ignorant ever got elected, but we’re not going to say he’s breaking the law for spreading David Barton-esque fiction. We’ll just mock the hell out of him for it.
The Golden Rule, by the way, has been promoted by just about every major world religion well before Christianity got around to it. The belief that students won’t know how to treat others kindly, or behave ethically, or show respect to their parents if they aren’t force-fed Bible verses is disproven by just about every non-Christian society that has ever existed. (And Christians routinely break all those ethical codes, too.)
No one needs to read the Bible to be a good person. But no one’s prevented from reading the Bible either because it’s not banned in public schools or libraries or anywhere else kids may come across it. It’s not banned in Congress, either. (The Capitol Police were never going to drag Owens out of the hearing room over his stunt.) If anything, the Bible may be one of the least banned books in the country. If you’re looking for a copy, you won’t have any trouble finding one.
If Owens opposes banning books, though, he should come out in support of making them accessible to kids even if they contain content that makes him uncomfortable. But like so many other conservatives, he’s more interested in preventing kids from learning about certain “taboo” topics than making sure all books are available for kids who want to read them.
All while lying about one book that was never banned the way he claims.