Watch: Rep. Burgess Owens holds up Bible, tells committee it’s been ‘banned from all of us’ since 1963

Speaking at a hearing on book banning held by the House Education and Workforce Committee, the congressman promoted a Utah law that has led to more books being taken out of schools.

In a congressional hearing on book banning in public schools, Utah’s Rep. Burgess Owens decried to the House Education and Workforce Committee that Americans today “have no knowledge” of the golden rule or the Ten Commandments, and that there is “the greatest disdain for these laws wherever Democrats rule.”

The reason, he said, is because the Bible has been banned for the last 60 years.

“One of our nation’s most consequential books banning was done by (the) Supreme Court in 1963 when it officially mandated Bible reading — this book is banned from all of us, anything that deals with federal … no longer can see it, no longer can read it,” Owens said, hoisting a worn copy of the Scriptures. “Matter of fact, there’s some that are listening today probably think this is totally unconstitutional that I can even hold it up.”

The 1963 U.S. Supreme Court case that Owens was referring to was Abington School District v. Schempp, in which justices ruled that Bible readings and prayers in public schools were a violation of the First Amendment’s establishment clause. That decision did not, however, stop Bibles from being placed on school library shelves.

Owens continued, speaking highly of a 2022 bill passed by the Utah Legislature that bans “pornographic or indecent” content in schools, resulting in hundreds of books being pulled from libraries and classrooms.

“In Utah, we get it right,” said the 4th Congressional District representative. “We care more about our kids than an ideology.”

That law, however, unintentionally resulted in the Bible being banned in one school district — at least temporarily. The district’s school board later reversed that decision.

On the federal level, House Republicans earlier this year passed the Parents Bill of Rights Act, which, among other things, requires schools to notify parents that they have the right to review the curriculum and school budget, inspect books and other library materials, and receive information about any violent activity in the school.

Although five Republicans joined Democrats in voting against the legislation, all four of Utah’s congressmen voted “aye.”

“Moving forward, our Republican majority will work to stop the entrapment of children in institutions who prioritize sexual indoctrination instead of reading, writing, thinking and succeeding,” Owens said in the hearing.

Watch Owens’ full comments here:

The Salt Lake Tribune photographer Bethany Baker contributed to this story.