Bible banned from Utah School Libraries

The Bible has been banned.

You can say it in many ways, for example you could use just one word, “Karma”, or even use a bible verse “whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap“.

However you say it, there is no denying that this is indeed a truly delicious dish that has now been served up.

What exactly happened?

OK, let’s dive into that.

Some Background on our new Fahrenheit 451

(Hat tip if you know the “Fahrenheit 451” reference)

You will of course be aware of the push by Republicans to have books that they, or parents, deem to be inappropriate, to be removed from libraries. It is done to supposedly protect kids. So let’s check in with the ALA (American Libraries Association), and see what is actually happening.

Here is where the 1,269 book bans that have impacted a total of 2,571 titles in 2022 have happened…

What is getting banned?

Right-wing religious fanaticism is driving this, so they are inevitably going after anything with an LGBTQ theme, but that’s not the whole story.

Here are a few examples of books banned in the decade up to 2019 that caught my eye (and caused my jaw to drop) …

  • A Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  • Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
  • The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  • The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
  • The Color Purple by Alice Walker
  • Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
  • 1984 by George Orwell
  • A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
  • Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

If you would like to imagine a world without the above twelve, then what can I say except to welcome you to 2023 (or should that really be 1984).

Who is now banning books in Utah?

The local media has this insight …

action by Utah Parents United, a right-leaning group that has led the efforts to challenge books here for being inappropriate. It has largely centered on texts written by and about the LGBTQ community and people of color.

The parent argues that Utah Parents United is “a white supremacist hate group” that is stepping on education and the freedom to access literature. They say that’s particularly worrisome in Davis School District, which has been “under investigation for being racist.”

Is that “racist” observation just bluster ?

Actually no, its a deeply troubling fact …

Davis was investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice, which released a report in 2021 finding that the district intentionally ignored “serious and widespread” racial harassment in its schools for years.

What about the Bible Ban?

Last year over in Utah, lawmakers passed bill HB 374. It was specifically enacted to “prohibit certain sensitive instructional materials in public schools“.

As is often the way with such bills, the definitions of terms such as “indecent” were not defined, so this bill means that opinions regarding what is and is not “indecent” prevail. If you create vague ill defined laws, then there really will be unexpected consequences.

It was a cue for one Utah parent who was rather ticked off about all the book banning. They decided that the best course of action was to fight fire with fire.

As reported by NPR on June 2…

…The parent’s complaint, which gained national attention when it was reported in March, cites Utah’s 2022 law banning any books containing “pornographic or indecent” material. The statement calls the Bible “one of the most sex-ridden books around,” and includes an attachment of passages from the Bible they believe violate the law.

… The Davis School District took the parent’s objection seriously, placing the Bible under review. This week, the district officially decided to remove the religious text from elementary and middle school libraries for containing “vulgarity or violence.” The ban will take effect immediately, with Bibles being removed from classrooms even as they close down for the summer….

But it’s Utah, so will anybody care?

They soon might…

…In the day since this decision was announced, the Davis School District has also received a request for the Book of Mormon to be reviewed for inappropriate content.

It will be fascinating to see how that plays out … in Utah.

Why was it taken seriously?

Some quibbled …

Rep. Ken Ivory, R-West Jordan, who sponsored the bill to remove pornographic books from school libraries, called the request to pull the Bible “antics that drain school resources.”

Seriously no Ken, this is your law, what exactly did you think would happen when you opened this door? You created an easy effective path for this insanity, this is your personal drain on school resources, you legally forced them down this path – own it.

The parent who objected, did not simply claim “its inappropriate“, they also brought point by point details that simply can’t be ignored, a list of 8 pages of stuff, that if published within a modern book would indeed be challenged.

Side note: No name or address for the person making the complaint. Rightly so, it was redacted because they would end up being a hate target for religious fanatics.

So what exactly was flagged up in the bible?

If you know your bible, then you will know.

Within the complaint the parent also takes a pop at the whole process as follows (which is of course the actual point of the complaint)…

“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!”

However, the parent does go on to explain that they did actually read the Bible and noted that it contained …

“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.”

Here are a few of the many many examples listed from just the first book of the Bible, Genesis … (along with my paraphrase of the reference)

  • Genesis 6:4 – Supernatural beings come down and fuck lots of women making them pregnant.
  • Genesis 9:21 – Some guy drinks way too much wine and ends up naked
  • Genesis 19:5 – Mob descends upon some visitors to town and tries to gang rape them
  • Genesis 19:8 – To pacify the mob of rapists, guy offers them his daughters to rape instead
  • Genesis 19:33-34 – Two daughters have sex with their father and both end up pregnant
  • Genesis 29:21-28 – Jacob is tricked into having sex with the wrong women, not the one he wanted, but all is OK in the end because he ends up having sex with both girls, and gets to keep them both.
  • Genesis 35:22 – Reuben has sex with Bihah, his father’s mistress
  • Genesis 38:2 – Judah has sex with Shua
  • etc…

For some they might be familiar stories. Perhaps because the translated text uses specific archaic terms we miss how graphic it actually is, but as written in the original language, it really is quite graphic.

Then again, the Bible is one of those books that everybody has and almost nobody reads, so many might not appreciate how graphic it can be.

The Bible is traditionally called “The Good Book”, but in reality it’s actually a bad book with lots of naughty bits that are, to use the new Republican book reading standard, not exactly age appropriate.

Is the Goal of the Bible complaint to actually ban the Bible?

Not at all.

I truly wish all would read it with an understanding of what it claims (we need more atheists).

The real goal is to use a Bible ban to make a point about the utter daftness of the new book ban fetish …

If folks are outraged about the Bible being banned, they should be outraged about all the books that are being censored in our public schools,

Kasey Meehan – Freedom to Read program at the writers’ organization PEN America.

What can you do, and what should you do?

I do have opinions on that, but why listen to me. Instead, pay attention to what the subject matters experts advise – the librarians themselves.

The ALA (American Library Association) has a “Fight Censorship” page that is full of lots of guidance and some great resources.

There you will find that ALA embrace and deploy a commodity that is so rare these days, actually having it is akin to having a super power. The commodity I’m referring too is of course “Common Sense”.

Let’s finish with an extract from ALA that addresses a few very obvious questions regarding book bans …

Aren’t There Some Kinds Of Expression That Really Should Be Censored?

The United States Supreme Court has ruled that there are certain narrow categories of speech that are not protected by the First Amendment: obscenity, child pornography, defamation, and “fighting words,” or speech that incites immediate and imminent lawless action. The government is also allowed to enforce secrecy of some information when it is considered essential to national security, like troop movements in time of war, classified information about defense, etc.

What Is Obscenity?

Sexual expression is a frequent target of censorship. But the Supreme Court has told us that material is not obscene unless a judge or jury finds that an average person, applying contemporary community standards, would find that the material appeals to the prurient (or morbid, shameful, and unhealthy) interest in sex (note that, by its definition, the Court implicitly recognized that there is such a thing as a healthy interest in sex!); that it depicts or describes certain sexual acts defined in state law in a patently offensive way; and that a reasonable person (community standards do not control this last element) would find that the material lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value. All three elements must be present for material to be judged by a judge or jury as obscene and, therefore, illegal.

What About Protecting Children From Pornography, Whether Or Not It Is Legally Obscene?

The primary responsibility for rearing children rests with parents. If parents want to keep certain ideas or forms of expression away from their children, they must assume the responsibility for shielding those children. Governmental institutions cannot be expected to usurp or interfere with parental obligations and responsibilities when it comes to deciding what a child may read or view.

How Do You Guide Children When You Can’t Be With Them 24 Hours A Day?

Parents who believe that the current state of society and communications make it difficult to shield their children must nevertheless find a way to cope with what they see as that reality within the context of their own family. Libraries can be extremely helpful, providing information about parenting, open communication between parents and children, how to communicate with caregivers and the parents of your children’s friends about your rules, and the opinions of various organizations representing a wide spectrum of points of view about materials for children.

If a child borrows something from a library which that child’s parent believes is inappropriate, the parents are encouraged to return the item and make use of the expertise of their librarian to locate materials they prefer, among the hundreds of thousands of choices most public libraries make available.

The bottom line is this: Stay informed. Know what is happening in your state legislature, local school and library boards, and city councils. Write letters expressing your view to your mayor, and your state and federal representatives and senators. Attend your local school and library board meetings.

Leave a Comment

Exit mobile version