Utah District Bans Bible in Elementary and Middle Schools ‘Due to Vulgarity or Violence’

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) β€” The good book is being treated like a bad book in Utah after a parent frustrated with efforts to ban the material in schools convinced a suburban district that some Bible verses were too vulgar or violent for young children.

The Davis School District, which has 72,000 students, north of Salt Lake City, removed the Bible from its elementary and middle schools but kept it in high schools after a committee reviewed the scriptures in response to a complaint parental. The district removed other titles, including Sherman Alexie’s “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” and John Green’s “Looking for Alaska,” following a 2022 state law requiring districts to include parents in decisions about what constitutes “sensitive material”. ”

A district spokesman, Chris Williams, said he does not distinguish between requests for book reviews. Exams are administered by a committee made up of teachers, parents, and administrators from the predominantly conservative community where most people are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The committee posted its decision in an online database of review requests and did not specify its reasoning or the Bible passages it found too violent or vulgar.

The decision comes as conservative parent activists, including state chapters of the group Parents United, descend on school boards and state homes across the United States, sowing alarm over how sex is talked about. and violence in schools.

It is unclear, however, who made the request to ban the Bible from Davis schools or if they are affiliated with a larger group. The district declined to provide the person’s identity, citing a school board privacy policy.

A copy of the complaint obtained by the Salt Lake Tribune through a public records request shows the parent noted that the Bible contains instances of incest, prostitution and rape. The lawsuit derided a “bad faith process” and said the district was “transferring our children’s education, First Amendment rights and library access” to Parents United.

“Utah Parents United has dropped one of the most sexual books: The Bible,” said the parent’s complaint, dated Dec. 11. He later added, “You will no doubt find that the Bible (under state law) has ‘no serious values ​​for minors’ because it is pornographic under our new definition. “

The review board determined the Bible did not meet Utah’s definition of what is pornographic or indecent, which is why it remains in high schools, Williams said. The committee can make its own decisions under the new 2022 state law and has applied different standards based on student ages in response to multiple challenges, he said.

An anonymous party filed an appeal on Wednesday.

Most members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints read the Bible as well as other scriptures, including the Book of Mormon, which has gone unchallenged in the Davis School District.

The Bible has long landed on the American Library Association’s most contested books list and was temporarily pulled from shelves last year in school districts in Texas and Missouri.

Concerns about new policies that could entrap the Bible have regularly cropped up in state houses during debates over efforts to expand book banning procedures. This includes Arkansas – one of the states that enacted legislation this year that would subject librarians to criminal penalties for providing materials “harmful” to minors, and creates a new process for the public to request that materials be moved to libraries.

“I don’t want people to be able to say, ‘I don’t want the Bible in the library,'” Arkansas Democratic State Senator Linda Chesterfield told a hearing.

Parents who have pushed for more say in their children’s education and the curriculum and materials available in schools have argued that they should control how their children are taught on issues such as gender, sexuality and race.

EveryLibrary, a national political action committee, told The Associated Press last month it was tracking at least 121 different proposals introduced in legislatures this year targeting libraries, librarians, educators and access to materials. . According to the American Library Association, the number of attempts to ban or restrict books in the United States last year was the highest in 20 years.

“If people are outraged by the banning of the Bible, they should be outraged by all the books that are censored in our public schools,” said Kasey Meehan, who runs the writers organization’s Freedom to Read program. PEN America.

___ Associated Press reporter Andrew DeMillo contributed from Little Rock, Ark.

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