Frustrated by the books being removed from school libraries, a Utah parent says there’s one that hasn’t been challenged yet, but that they believe should be, for being “one of the most sex-ridden books around.”
So they’ve submitted a request for their school district in Davis County to now review the Bible for any inappropriate content.
“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.”
The code cited is the Utah law passed in 2022 to ban any books containing “pornographic or indecent” content from Utah schools, both in libraries and in the classroom. It came after outcry from conservative parents groups, who have been pushing to have titles removed.
The Salt Lake Tribune obtained a copy of the parent’s petition for the book review of the Bible late Tuesday after submitting a public records request for it on March 9, asking for an expedited response, which was denied. Davis School District did not respond to The Tribune’s request for comment then, but returned a call late Wednesday.
District spokesperson Christopher Williams repeated what he’s told other media outlets: “We don’t differentiate between one request and another. We see that as the work that we do.”
He said the Bible challenge has been given to a committee to review; the process typically takes 60 days, but Williams said the committee is not done with this request due to a backlog as more parents have been questioning books.
According to the copy of the request, the parent submitted their challenge on Dec. 11. The district removed the parent’s name, address and contact information, citing privacy reasons. The parent also attached to their request an eight-page listing of passages from the Bible that they found to be offensive and worth reviewing.
Their request is to specifically remove the book from shelves at Davis High School.
“Get this PORN out of our schools,” the parent wrote. “If the books that have been banned so far are any indication for way lesser offenses, this should be a slam dunk.”
The parent points to 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.
Based on the new Utah law, something is indecent if it includes explicit sexual arousal, stimulation, masturbation, intercourse, sodomy or fondling. According to state attorneys, material doesn’t have to be “taken as a whole” in those situations or left on the shelf during a review. If there is a scene involving any of those acts, it should be immediately removed.
Those who have opposed that effort have said it steps on the First Amendment right for kids to access materials, especially from diverse viewpoints.
In submitting the online form for the book review, the parent echoes that, writing: “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!”
(The parent does note, though, that they read the Bible before suggesting it be removed.)
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.”
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.
Utah Parents United responded to a request for comment from The Tribune on Wednesday, saying: “We believe in following the law. That’s all we’re asking schools to do.”
The group has previously said that its members are not challenging books based on race or LGBTQ relationships. But they have repeatedly targeted the same titles in school districts across the state, including “The Bluest Eye” by Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison and “Gender Queer,” a graphic novel about the author’s journey of self-identity.
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.”
“There was a purpose to the bill and this kind of stuff, it’s very unfortunate,” he said. “There are any number of studies that directly link sexualization and hyper-sexualization with sexual exploitation and abuse. Certainly, those are things we don’t want in schools.”
He said his measure was not meant to ban books but to limit books based on what’s age appropriate for children in schools.
“If a parent still wants their kid to read a certain book, they can go buy it on Amazon or at a bookstore or even check it out at their public library,” Ivory added.
Williams with Davis School District noted that parents can also call their child’s school and limit their account, specifically, so the student cannot check out listed titles. Only 10 parents have done that across the district, Williams noted.
When asked specifically if the challenge on the Bible had merit, Ivory said: “I guess the schools will get to burn time and resource to determine that.”
He also acknowledged the parent who submitted the request “really had to go through their Bible study” to come up with the list of examples they found inappropriate. He added: “I hope they paid attention to other parts of the Bible, though.”
The eight-page list starts with passages from Genesis that mention sex, alcohol, nudity, rape and incest. A quote from Genesis 19:8 reads: “See now, I have two daughters who have not known a man; please, let me bring them out to you, and you may do to them as you wish.”
Genesis 19:35-36 adds: “Then they made their father drink wine that night also. And the younger arose and lay with him, and he did not know when she lay down or when she arose. Thus both the daughters of Lot were with child by their father.”
The other citations highlight similar themes, including passages mentioning “whoredom” and “breasts” and “fornication.”
Ivory said he sees the request as a political stunt, not a serious request. He suggested: “For people to minimize that and to make a mockery of it is very sad.”
The books he said he was worried about in drafting the measure included graphic novels with drawings that legislative attorneys advised him he couldn’t show in public meetings because “they would violate state and federal obscenity laws.” That includes “Gender Queer,” a novel about the author’s journey of self-identity that has some scenes of illustrated figures engaging in sexual conduct.
Last year in Alpine School District, 52 books flagged by parents were pulled from shelves while they were reviewed. One of the books on the list seemed possibly misidentified simply because of its title. It’s called “SEX: If You’re Scared of the Truth Don’t Read This!” The author argues in favor of abstinence, which is what is taught by law in Utah schools.
The Bible wasn’t challenged there and doesn’t appear to have been questioned yet in other Utah school districts where books have been removed, including nine in Canyons School District and several in Washington County School District.
Utah Parents United curriculum director Brooke Stephens also filed a police report with both Farmington Police Department and Davis County Sheriff’s Office last year, according to copies provided to The Tribune, to report a list of 47 books in Davis School District. None of those were religious texts.
The school district, according to the spokesperson, has the Bible, Book of Mormon, Torah and Quran available to check out.