To comply with Utah's book banning law, a school district removed the KJV Bible
The Book of Mormon is next on the chopping block
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The Bible has finally been removed from the shelves of one Utah school district after an unnamed parent said it violated a law prohibiting school books with “pornographic or indecent” content.
Conservative Christians are about to get a lesson in karma.
This story first made headlines a few months ago when we learned about the request to remove the Bible from the school bookshelves, but this week, the Davis School District finally took action. The district said it would remove all KJV bibles from elementary and middle school libraries.
All of this stems from a recent push by Republicans to ban books that they deem inappropriate for children because they cover racism, sex, and LGBTQ relationships in ways that make conservative parents very uncomfortable. The books themselves usually aren’t graphic, much less pornographic, but the fear-mongering has been effective, especially in red states like Texas and Florida.
Utah is no different. Last year, lawmakers passed a bill paving the way for the banning of school books that contain “pornographic or indecent” content. Those words, however, were not defined, allowing right-wing groups to declare just about anything they don’t like as unfit for kids.
That’s why it was amusing when at least one parent decided to kick conservatives where it hurts: in their favorite holy book.
According to reporter Courtney Tanner of the Salt Lake Tribune, a parent submitted a formal request last December to get the Bible banned from Davis High School in Kaysville. The newspaper received a copy of it via a public records request. While the submitter’s name was redacted, the content of the request was glorious.
“Incest, onanism, bestiality, prostitution, genital mutilation, fellatio, dildos, rape, and even infanticide,” the parent wrote in their request, listing topics they found concerning in the religious text. “You’ll no doubt find that the Bible, under Utah Code Ann. § 76-10-1227, has ‘no serious values for minors’ because it’s pornographic by our new definition.”
“Get this PORN out of our schools,” the parent wrote. “If the books that have been banned so far are any indication for way lesser offenses, this should be a slam dunk.”
The parent in question didn’t just say all this. Included in the demand was an 8-page list of specific verses that justified the request. Here was just the beginning:
The parent also included this bit of sarcasm when introducing the list:
“I thank the Utah Legislature and Utah Parents United for making this bad faith process so much easier and way more efficient. Now we can all ban books and you don’t even need to read them or be accurate about it. Heck, you don’t even need to see the book!”
Was it trolling? Sure. But the request was superficially no different from the other ones conservative parents are making, and the school district said it would review the request just as they were doing with all the others they received.
It’s similar to a request that activist Chaz Stevens made last year in Florida. At the time, he said the Bible was not age appropriate because it “casually references such topics as adultery and fornication,” includes scenes of bestiality and rape, and promotes “wokeness.” That last one was tongue-in-cheek; Stevens cited Ephesians 6:5-7 (“Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear…”), which he said could remind “young white students” about “civilization’s sordid past.”
Whoever the unnamed parent was in Utah, the gambit worked. The King James Version of the Bible was removed from the shelves of 7-8 schools in the district because it contains “vulgarity or violence.” (Because the KJV Bible was the only one mentioned in the complaint, other translations will be allowed to stay up on the shelves in a few schools.)
The committee assigned to review the Bible for the Davis School District determined that it does not meet the requirements to violate the state's law, but that it should still be limited to high school-aged students. The decision is already being appealed by another parent, and that appeal will be decided at a public meeting in the future.
The Republican lawmaker who wrote the book banning law, Ken Ivory, initially dismissed the complaint against the Bible, calling it a “mockery” of the law. But on Thursday, he quickly reversed course and agreed that the Bible should be removed from school shelves because “Traditionally, in America, the Bible is best taught, and best understood, in the home, and around the hearth, as a family.”
Ivory highlights the awkward position conservatives now find themselves in: Whatever reasons they want to cite to ban other books, the Bible will always contain so much worse.
This isn’t over either. On Friday, another parent called for the removal of the Book of Mormon. (Remember: This is Utah.)
A spokesperson for Davis School District confirmed to The Salt Lake Tribune the latest book challenge, which is aimed at the foundational text of the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The request calls for the book to be reviewed for containing violence, which includes battles, beheadings and kidnappings among its stories. Members of the faith believe the text was translated from golden plates by church founder Joseph Smith.
There’s nothing stopping parents from getting other holy books off the shelves, along with plenty of Christian favorites. Anonymous parents can always find something offensive to complain about.
The school district says it will form another committee to review the Book of Mormon complaint.
But all of this back and forth is idiotic. The school already has experts who can gauge the worthiness of any book—the librarians—and taking away their agency and ignoring their expertise is just a big waste of time.
Just because a book mentions sex (or any other potentially controversial topic) doesn’t mean it deserves to be banned from school shelves. Children should have the option of reading what they want. They should have easy access to books that other people (including adults!) may not want them to read. If conservatives are targeting young adult novels that talk about same-sex attraction, just to name one example, then there’s no reason everyone else shouldn’t target holy books.
Let’s be honest: If the passages in religious books were written in young adult novels, Republicans would want to ban those, too.
To be clear, the purpose of calling for a ban on the Bible and the Book of Mormon isn’t to actually ban either one. It’s to highlight the absurdity of banning books, period. The solution isn’t to toss holy books out of school for children who may want to read them; it’s to make sure public school students have access to all kinds of literature.
That includes popular works of fiction.
(Large portions of this article were published earlier)
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