After the Bible was banned, Robert Gehrke says lawmakers are ditching pretense and going for total control

Lawmakers are now upset the process they helped set up isn’t working how they want, so they’re looking for punishment and a power grab.

It’s easy for some to be gleeful that conservative legislators are losing their collective minds over Davis School District’s decision to yank the Bible from elementary and junior high schools.

It’s a bit of a comeuppance. This is where you end up when you go down this road. Karma.

“I am not surprised at all that we find ourselves at this point,” Sen. Jake Anderegg, R-Lehi, said during a legislative hearing this week when Davis officials were called to the Capitol for a good scolding.

“It’s clear as the nose on my face that this is where it was going to head,” Anderegg said. “So now we’re at this point, I still don’t know how to split this baby.”

That “split-the-baby” idiom is, of course, a reference to King Solomon, a key figure in one of the Bible’s suitable-for-work stories. Spoiler alert: No babies ended up being cut in half.

But there are plenty of other fairly intense stories in the Bible, full of violence, incest, masturbation, rape, and on and on. It’s why a parent in Davis schools asked to have it removed and why a committee made up mainly of parents with kids in Davis schools decided it wasn’t appropriate for younger kids.

Frankly, I’m fine with that. Not necessarily because I think it’s the right decision, but partly because Utah kids are allowed to study it in LDS seminary classes and partly because I don’t think there are a lot of elementary and junior high school kids clamoring to read it.

But mainly it’s a decision made by a committee comprised mostly of parents who reviewed it and decided it wasn’t right for their local schools.

Look, I fully recognize that the controversy over books in libraries is the latest politicized panic, driven almost exclusively by a very small but well-organized group of radicals who would use it as a pretext to try to root out ideas they consider objectionable.

And how small of a group are we talking about here?

Since the Legislature passed its book ban law last year, the same six individuals have demanded that the Granite District yank 94 books from school library shelves. Thanks to these six people, the district has spent some 10,000 hours and more than $100,000 reviewing the books. In all, 23 were deemed to be in violation of the new law.

Statewide, there have been 547 requests to remove books and 263 of them were removed. Interestingly, in the case of 24 of the protests, the title wasn’t even in the library to begin with — an indication that perhaps the fury is focused on an idea rather than fact.

But this is the process that has been established — and it’s not without merit.

Last year I wrote that not every book belongs in every school library in every grade level. What might be fine in high schools might not be appropriate in elementary schools. It’s not a radical notion.

Instead of leaving those decisions to the whims of a librarian or principal or superintendent, it makes sense to have a process where parents of kids in those schools read the books and make decisions that reflect the standards in that community.

Take Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” — one of those 23 books that the review committee in Granite District removed from libraries. In Davis, it was allowed to stay, but only in high schools — like the Bible. In Washington County, it was challenged twice and removed the second time.

I personally see value in the book, but I’m willing to respect the process in the interest of local control and parental rights — things our conservative legislators claim to support. That is until they don’t get their way.

Now, in the aftermath of the Bible decision — which is still in the appeals process, by the way — they are declaring war.

Davis officials were excoriated for simply following the procedures that the Legislature had set up, and that ultimately resulted in the Bible being offered only in high schools.

Rep. Karianne Lisonbee, R-Clearfield, said Wednesday that the law should be clarified so administrators can unilaterally remove books without a review committee or if the review committee says they should stay — even though a memo from the Attorney General’s office warned that skipping the review could expose the district to a lawsuit.

Sen. John Johnson, R-North Ogden, went further. He said he wants to impose penalties on administrators who follow the process and return to the shelves books some may deem objectionable. He even suggested administrators might be subject to criminal charges for providing pornography to minors.

At this point, these lawmakers have lost any credibility. They’ve been exposed. It’s no longer — if it ever was — about community values or a uniform process or parental involvement or local control.

Now it’s about a group of peevish tyrants who will use their power to inflict their views on anyone who sees things differently than they do and punish anyone who crosses them.