Public Schools

A Utah law calls for banning ‘pornographic’ content from public schools. This parent demanded removal of the Bible.

  Rhys Long

Amid the rash of book bans sweeping public schools across the country, a frustrated parent in Utah decided to flip the script by submitting a complaint against the Bible. After reviewing the book, Davis School District has decided to pull the text from elementary and middle school libraries across the district.

The parent filed the complaint under a 2022 Utah law that bans books containing “pornographic or indecent” content. This bill has been used primarily to remove books written by marginalized communities, including Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye and Maia Kobabe’s Gender Queer. Across the country, similar bans have been used to target any book that challenges a hetero-Christian worldview.

The Bible: pornographic passages?

This Utah parent rightfully pointed out that the Bible contained just as much “pornographic or indecent” content as any of the books previously banned, citing mentions of rape, alcohol use and incest in the Book of Genesis alone. The complaint forced the district to either reveal the book bans as a hypocritical farce or to impartially apply the law (thus annoying the extremists who promoted it). The review board chose the latter.

One Utah Republican legislator called the complaint a mockery but added that the Bible is “best taught, and best understood, in the home, and around the hearth, as a family.” AU believes that the Bible as a devotional text should be taught only in the home, in a church or in a private school – not a public one. (Of course, public schools are free to use the Bible in objective courses about religion.)

And just in case you’re wondering who is correct in the grand scheme of book bans, I can offer a helpful hint: The people banning books have never been regarded fondly by history.

Engaging with diverse viewpoints

It is not the job of a public school to police Christian morals and ensure that the literature available to students is in line with those ideals; it is the job of schools to push students to engage with diverse viewpoints – viewpoints that often challenge students’ conception of life, morality, history and their own identity. If a parent wants their child to only experience material that coincides with a specific religion, then those parents should handle that. They should not dictate the educational materials to which other children have access.

Christian Nationalists’ efforts to ban things encounter the same issue time and time again: Whether attempting to ban marriage equality, gender-affirming care or books, religious extremists routinely discover that most people are opposed to such bans. Most people want access to health care, marriage and books – or at least want the freedom to choose for themselves. Personal choice is at the heart of a free nation, and instituting religiously motivated bans in the secular sphere needlessly tangles church and state, to the detriment of all.

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