Utah district’s Bible ban spurs protest by parents, Republicans

by Chloe Baker
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Bible ban protest

In a show of defiance, Republican lawmakers joined forces with over a hundred parents and children, clutching Bibles, at Utah’s Capitol on Wednesday. The gathering aimed to protest a school district’s controversial decision to eliminate the Bible from the libraries of middle and elementary schools. The move came as a response to a “sensitive materials” law backed by the GOP and passed two years prior.

Outraged parents and children, brandishing signs with slogans such as “The Bible is the original textbook” and “Remove porn, not the Bible,” voiced their displeasure. They were incensed by the Davis School District’s announcement that a review committee had deemed the Bible too “violent or vulgar” for young readers. Although the committee did not classify the Bible as obscene or pornographic under the sensitive materials law, it independently decided to exclude it from libraries below the high school level.

Karlee Vincent, a mother from Davis County, who brought her three children’s Bibles to the protest, expressed her discontent. She asserted that while districts could consider banning certain titles containing controversial material, religious texts like the Bible should not be targeted.

“We cherish the Bible. We cherish God. And our nation needs God,” she passionately declared.

The challenge against the Bible’s presence in schools was submitted anonymously, seemingly aimed at undermining the two-year-old law. It argued that the sacred text contained instances of incest, prostitution, and rape. It criticized the review procedures as a “bad faith process” and targeted groups like Parents United and its Utah-based affiliate, who have advocated for the removal of specific titles from schools.

The removal of the Bible has become the most prominent effort to ban a book from a Utah school since the Legislature enacted a law mandating the creation of pathways for residents to challenge “sensitive materials.” The law also employed a statutory definition of pornography to identify such materials. Consequently, this situation has become a crucial moment for proponents of scrutinizing the available materials in schools. The backlash has emboldened critics of book banning, who argue that the outcry over the Bible’s removal exposes arbitrary and politically motivated double standards, as well as the inherent issues associated with censoring books based on their content.

Kasey Meehan, director of the Freedom to Read program at the writers’ organization PEN America, remarked, “If people are outraged about the Bible being banned, they should also be outraged about all the books that are being censored.”

Nichole Mason, President of Utah Parents United, expressed concern that the Bible ban had shifted attention away from discussions about obscene materials that still exist in school libraries. Defending Utah’s sensitive materials law, Mason emphasized that the committee had determined the Bible was not pornographic according to state statutes. She stood firm on her belief that Utah should give parents more authority in deciding what materials are appropriate for their children in schools.

“Blessed is America, where we can challenge any book out there!” Mason exclaimed.

State Representative Ken Ivory, the Republican sponsor of the sensitive materials law, dismissed the notion that his legislation had paved the way for the Bible’s ban. While he defended the review process leading to the removal of the sacred text, Ivory argued that the Davis School District had exceeded its authority by eliminating the Bible from middle and elementary schools based on criteria not defined by state law.

He acknowledged the criticism of the review process but asserted that it did not negate the need for parental and administrative oversight regarding school materials.

“Should we establish age-appropriate limits for children in school? Virtually anyone of good faith would say ‘yes.’ The question then becomes: What should those limits be?” he pondered.

Ivory urged the Legislature to amend the law so that decisions regarding book removal would be overseen by elected officials in open public meetings, rather than by committees similar to the one that had decided to remove the Bible from Davis School District’s middle and elementary schools.

Utah is part of a growing list of Republican-led states that have expanded residents’ ability to challenge books and curricula in schools and libraries. Driven by a rising parents’ rights movement, lawmakers from Florida to Wyoming have increasingly scrutinized the availability of books, sparking controversies regarding content related to race, sex, and gender in particular. New state laws have granted parents additional power to challenge books and even exposed librarians to potential criminal charges if they provide minors with “harmful” content.

Neither Ivory nor the protesting parents raised objections to efforts to remove other books, including those related to race and LGBTQ+ themes, which account for the majority of book challenges.

Many parents and individuals of faith who participated in Wednesday’s protest claimed that they had been largely unaware of previous book banning efforts until news broke about the Bible’s removal. They staunchly defended the Bible’s status as a foundational text, arguing that it should not be equated with other challenged books. They contended that the committee’s decision only reaffirmed their long-standing distrust of public schools and those responsible for decision-making.

Tad Callister, the former Sunday School General President for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, addressed the crowd, stating, “I hope the Bible will continue to be a part of our schools, not only to provide information to our minds but also to shape the character of our hearts. And the greatest character of all is Jesus Christ.” The audience erupted in applause.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Bible ban protest

Q: Why was the Bible banned in Utah schools?

A: The Bible was banned in Utah schools after a review committee determined that it contained content that was deemed “violent or vulgar” for young children. Although the committee did not classify it as obscene or pornographic, they used their own discretion to remove it from libraries below the high school level.

Q: Who protested against the Bible ban?

A: The Bible ban sparked protests by parents and Republicans in Utah. Over a hundred parents and children, accompanied by Republican lawmakers, rallied at Utah’s Capitol to voice their outrage over the decision to remove the Bible from school libraries.

Q: What was the reasoning behind the protest?

A: The protesters argued that while school districts can consider banning books with controversial material, religious texts like the Bible should not be targeted. They believed that the Bible holds a significant place as a foundational text and that removing it from schools undermines religious freedom and parental rights.

Q: Are there concerns about other banned books?

A: Yes, some critics have raised concerns about potential double standards and arbitrary censorship. They argue that if people are outraged by the Bible ban, they should also be concerned about other books that have been censored. The controversy has reignited discussions about book banning, content scrutiny, and the need for transparent decision-making processes.

Q: What changes are being proposed in response to the Bible ban?

A: State Representative Ken Ivory, the sponsor of the sensitive materials law, called for changes in the law to ensure that book removal decisions are overseen by elected officials in open public meetings. This proposal aims to provide more accountability and transparency in the decision-making process regarding book removals from schools.

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