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Bible banned from schools in Utah

07 June 2023

iStock

COPIES of the Bible have been removed from elementary and middle schools in a district of Utah, in the United States, after a committee agreed that the book contained “vulgarity and violence” inappropriate for younger children.

Up to eight copies have been removed from libraries in the Davis County School District of the state capital, Salt Lake City, since the ruling was issued by the district committee, last month. This was done in response to an anonymous complaint from a parent in December. It has been reported that the parent’s actions were prompted by their opposition to a 2022 Bill passed in Utah, HB 374 Sensitive Materials in Schools, which bans “instructional material that is pornographic or indecent material”, and has been used by conservatives to remove LGBTI+ literature from school reading lists.

The state law requires a “local education agency to include parents who are reflective of a school’s community when determining whether an instructional material is sensitive material”.

In an email to the US TV network CNN, the director of communications and operations for the school district, Christopher Williams, said: “The committee decided to retain the book in school library circulation only at the high-school level, based on age appropriateness due to vulgarity or violence.” The ban will now be considered by an appeals committee of the District Board of Education.

The Salt Lake Tribune reports that the complaining parent had said that the King James Bible “has ‘no serious values for minors’ because it’s pornographic by our new definition”. The district’s ruling determined that the Bible’s content did not violate the 2022 law — which makes an exception for “serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value” — but it did include “vulgarity or violence not suitable for younger students”.

The parent later told the local TV station, KUTV, that they wished to highlight the “bad faith process” for reviewing books. “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,” they wrote.

Officials in Utah, who have not identified the offending Bible passages, are also considering a request to remove the Book of Mormon after another parent complained last Friday. The Book is used in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which is based in Salt Lake City.

The Tribune reported that the call for a review of the Book of Mormon was due to its containing “violence, including battles, beheadings, and kidnappings”.

Bob Johnson, a primary-school parent in Davis County, told CBS News that he opposes the Bible’s removal. “I can’t think of what’s in the Bible that you would have to take out of it. Its not like there [are] pictures in it,” he said.

Several states have passed laws restricting access to books in school libraries. A report by the free speech group PEN America shows that book-bans increased during the 2022-23 school year, most prominently in five states: Texas, Florida, Missouri, Utah, and South Carolina.

The president of the Utah Library Association, Patrick Hoecherl told CNN that most of the requests for removals or bans came from a minority of parents, and did not reflect most parents’ attitudes. “Really, most parents strongly oppose pulling books from school library shelves,” he said. “They trust their local librarians and teachers over government officials to work with parents locally to make decisions on what books are appropriate for kids.”

Laura Chan, a spokeswoman for the inter-denominational American Bible Society, said: “We believe that the Bible is inspired by God and is of moral benefit to our lives, and we advocate for all people to consistently read the Bible to understand and apply its truth. It’s our hope that families and communities would read and process God’s Word together.”

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