When a government starts banning books, the inevitable result is that somebody somewhere is going to ban a book you like.
For many in Utah, that happened this week in the Davis School District, where a review committee answered a parent’s complaint and removed a book from junior high and elementary shelves because of “vulgarity or violence.”
That book is the Bible.
The parent who filed the challenge did so, The Tribune reported in March, in frustration about how a 2022 law allowed any parent to file a challenge about any book in a public school they considered “pornographic or indecent” — a change championed by the group Utah Parents United, which is gaining influence in the state. A committee within that school district would have to rule on whether the book should stay or go.
In the Davis County School District, as of March, according to the Standard-Examiner, 33 books has been pulled from school shelves. They include Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye,” George Johnson’s “All Boys Aren’t Blue,” V.E. Schwab’s “The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue” and Casey McQuistion’s “Red, White and Royal Blue.”
The parent who filed the complaint against the Bible said the holy scripture of the Christian faith contained “incest, onanism, bestiality, prostitution, genital mutilation, fellatio, dildos, rape, and even infanticide.” Because of all that, the parent wrote, “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.”
This week, the district’s review committee ruled the Bible could stay in high schools, but was too hot to handle for junior high and elementary readers. The decision is not the final word. Another parent has filed an appeal, which will be decided by the district’s board of education.
Utah’s HB374 — which was passed by the Utah Legislature in 2022 and went into effect with the current school year — “prohibits certain sensitive instructional materials in public schools.” After the law was passed, Utah’s Attorney General’s office issued guidance to the state’s school districts “to immediately remove books from school libraries that are categorically defined as pornography under state statute.”
According to PEN America, the nonprofit free-speech advocacy group, the Alpine and Washington County school districts banned dozens of books, and a curious pattern emerged: A large number of the books were by or about people of color, or about LGBTQ+ characters and themes.
In Alpine, 18 of the 39 removed titles, 46%, had LGBTQ+ themes. In Washington half of the 42 books banned included sexual experiences, and more than 30% featured characters of color, or discussed race or racism.
The solution to all this is blindingly simple: Remove the book bans. All of them. Let people decide for themselves and for their families what’s appropriate.
For those who want to perpetuate such bans, there’s a bit of cautionary advice from the newest banned book, once you get past the incest and prostitution and such. It’s the verse Matthew 7:1 — “Judge not, that ye not be judged.”