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Conservatives demand the Bible be put back in schools after it was banned for vulgarity & violence

Parents and religious leaders opposed to removing the Bible from schools gathered at the Utah state Capitol.
Parents and religious leaders opposed to removing the Bible from schools gathered at the Utah state Capitol. Photo: Screenshot/NBC News

A crowd that included Republican lawmakers, religious leaders, concerned parents and their children, and one member of the Utah State Board of Education gathered at the state’s capitol building on Wednesday to oppose the removal of the Bible from libraries in one school district.

Late last month, a committee appointed by Davis School District to review books challenged under a 2022 Utah law banning books containing “pornographic or indecent material” from public K–12 schools, determined that the Bible should be removed from elementary and junior high school libraries in the district. The religious text will remain on high school library shelves as the committee determined that it “does not contain sensitive material” under Utah’s criminal code defining pornographic and harmful materials, but it will be banned at lower grade levels for “vulgarity or violence.”

As the Associated Press reports, parents at the Capitol on Wednesday held signs calling the Bible “the original textbook” and said the Bible shouldn’t be compared to other books that have been challenged under the 2022 law. Moreover, they asserted that the Bible should be an integral part of classroom instruction in public schools.

Former Sunday School General President for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Tad Callister said that he hopes the Bible “will be part of our schools, not only to give information to our minds but character to our hearts — and the greatest character of all is Jesus Christ.”

Pastor Chuck Beickel of Faith Baptist Church said the Davis County School Board would “answer to God,” according to The Salt Lake Tribune.

The district’s Bible ban stems from a December 2022 book challenge, in which an anonymous parent described the Bible as “one of the most sex-ridden books around” and included an eight-page list of passages they said should be considered unacceptable under the law. The challenge was a direct response to the Utah book-banning law, which the parent said makes the “bad faith process” of removing books from school libraries “much easier and way more efficient.”

In an October 2022 report, the Utah State Board of Education said it had tracked 280 book complaints in just nine schools over a six-month period. Last August, PEN America released a list of 52 books that had been challenged in one Utah school district under H.B. 374. The list included many LGBTQ+-related titles, including Maia Kobabe’s graphic novel Gender Queer, George M. Johnson’s All Boys Aren’t Blue, and Jonathan Evison’s Lawn Boy. Most of the books that have been challenged deal with race or LGBTQ+ issues. In a statement, the Davis School Board said that it has already reviewed 60 titles and removed 37 from schools under the law.

“If folks are outraged about the Bible being banned, they should be outraged about all the books that are being censored,” Kasey Meehan, director of the Freedom to Read program at PEN America, said last week.

But Utah Parents United President Nichole Mason described Davis School District’s decision as “retribution” for the law banning “sensitive materials” in schools. The conservative group, which advocates for what it calls parental rights in education, led efforts to ban books in school districts across the state, leading to the passage of the law.

Utah state Rep. Ken Ivory (R), who sponsored the law, said that the David School District decision perverted the law’s intent, according to The Salt Lake Tribune. He wants the state legislature to change the law so book removal decisions have to be overseen by elected officials at open public meetings, the AP reports.

“There’s a simple fix,” he said. “We should require any final determination [to remove a book] has to be made or ratified by the board so that parents can hold them accountable, and not by a secret, unelected anonymous committee.”

But lawmakers are unlikely to take up the issue in a potential special session.

“I think we’re going to be cautious on this until the Davis School Board speaks because I really believe they need to come back and say something about this,” state Sen. John Johnson (R) said.

In a statement, the Davis School Board noted that the decision to remove the Bible has already been appealed. An appeals committee consisting of three members of the district’s Board of Education will review the original complaint and make a recommendation to the full board to vote on.

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