Utah Republicans defend book removal law while protesting district that banned Bible

Jun 7, 2023, 2:07 PM

People gather during a rally Wednesday, June 7, 2023, at the Utah State Capitol, in Salt Lake City....

People gather during a rally Wednesday, June 7, 2023, at the Utah State Capitol, in Salt Lake City. Bible-toting parents and Republican lawmakers convened on Utah's Capitol to protest a suburban school district that announced it had removed the Bible from some schools last week. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Republican lawmakers rallied with more than one hundred Bible-toting parents and children at Utah’s Capitol on Wednesday to protest a suburban school district’s decision to remove the Bible from middle and elementary school libraries in the wake of a GOP-backed “sensitive materials” law passed two years ago.

Concerned parents and children holding signs that read “The Bible is the original textbook” and “Remove porn, not the Bible,” said they were outraged after northern Utah’s Davis School District announced that a review committee concluded the Bible was too “violent or vulgar” for young children. The committee ruled that it did not qualify as obscene or pornographic under the sensitive materials law, but used its own discretion to remove it from libraries below the high school level.

Karlee Vincent, a Davis County mother of three kids carrying children’s Bibles to the demonstration, said districts could weigh banning certain titles with controversial material, but not religious texts like the Bible.

“We love the Bible. We love God. And we need God in our nation,” she said.

The anonymously made challenge to the Bible appears to have been submitted as a statement to undermine the two-year-old law, noting the sacred text contains instances of incest, prostitution and rape. It derided the review procedures as a “bad faith process” and attacked groups that have pushed to remove certain titles from schools, including Parents United and its Utah-based affiliate.

The Bible removal is the highest-profile effort to remove a book from a school in Utah since the Legislature passed a law requiring school districts to create new pathways for residents to challenge “sensitive materials” and used a statute-based definition on pornography to define them. It has presented challenges for proponents of scrutinizing materials available in school. The pushback has emboldened book-banning critics, who argue anger at banning the Bible illustrates arbitrary and political double standards and the issues inherent to removing books that have certain content.

“If folks are outraged about the Bible being banned, they should be outraged about all the books that are being censored in our public schools,” Kasey Meehan, who directs the Freedom to Read program at the writers’ organization PEN America, said last week.

Utah Parents United President Nichole Mason said she worried the spotlight the Bible ban turned on Utah distracted from conversations about obscene materials that remain in school libraries. Defending Utah’s sensitive materials law, Mason noted that the committee determined the Bible didn’t qualify as pornographic under state statute. She doubled down on her stance that Utah should give parents more say in what’s in their kids’ schools.

“God Bless America that we can challenge any book out there!” Mason said.

State Rep. Ken Ivory, the sensitive materials law’s Republican sponsor, rebuffed the idea that his law paved the way for the Bible to be banned. Though he defended the review process after the sacred text’s removal, he said on Wednesday that the Davis School District had overstepped its role by removing the Bible from middle and elementary schools because of criteria not in state law.

He said criticism of the review process that led to the banning of the Bible didn’t relinquish the need for oversight from parents and administrators about materials in schools.

“Should we have age appropriate limits for children in school? Almost universally anyone of good faith says ‘Yes.’ The question is then: What should those limits be?” he said.

Ivory urged the Legislature to change the law so book removal decisions have to be overseen by elected officials at open public meetings, not the kind of committee that decided to remove the Bible from middle and elementary schools in the Davis School District.

Utah is among a longer list of Republican-led states that have in recent years expanded residents’ ability to challenge books and curriculum in schools and libraries. Lobbied by an ascendant parents’ rights movement, lawmakers from Florida to Wyoming have increasingly scrutinized what books are available, touching off opened librarians up to potential criminal charges if they provide minors content deemed “harmful.”

Neither Ivory nor parents took issue with efforts to remove other books, including the race- and LGBTQ-related titles that account for the majority of book challenges.

Many parents and people of faith at Utah’s Capitol on Wednesday said they had heard little of book banning efforts until news about the Bible’s removal broke last week. They defended the Bible’s role as a foundational text, saying it shouldn’t be compared to other books that parents have challenged. They said the committee’s decision affirmed long-simmering distrust against public schools and those who make decisions governing them.

“I hope it will be part of our schools, not only to give information to our minds but character to our hearts — and the greatest character of all is Jesus Christ,” Tad Callister, the former Sunday School General President for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said of the Bible and Book of Mormon as an audience applauded.

National News

FILE - President Joe Biden delivers remarks on his economic agenda at a training center run by Labo...

Associated Press

As employers face labor shortages, Biden administration rolls out playbook for training workers

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration on Friday is expected to release a playbook on best practices for training workers as the low 3.8% unemployment rate and years of underinvestment have left manufacturers, construction firms and other employers with unfilled jobs. Worker shortages have been a frustration for some employers, who upped their investments in […]

49 minutes ago

The Iron Gate Dam is seen in Hornbrook, Calif., Sept. 17, 2023. The dam is one of a series of four ...

Associated Press

Things to know about the Klamath River dam removal project, the largest in US history

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — The largest dam removal project in United States history is underway along the California-Oregon border. The project will remove four dams on the Klamath River. Work has already begun on removing the smallest of the four dams. The other three will come down next year. The project is part of a […]

3 hours ago

FILE -Oakland County Judge Kwame Rowe looks towards witness during cross examination, July 27, 2023...

Associated Press

Michigan judge to decide whether Oxford High School shooter gets life in prison or chance at parole

PONTIAC, Mich. (AP) — A teenager who killed four students at Michigan’s Oxford High School will learn Friday whether he will spend his life in prison or get a chance for parole in the decades ahead. Judge Kwame Rowe will announce his decision over video conference, weeks after hearing from experts who clashed over Ethan […]

5 hours ago

FILE - From left, Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., and Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa...

Associated Press

The far right has been feuding with McCarthy for weeks. Here’s how it’s spiraling into a shutdown.

WASHINGTON (AP) — With little time left to prevent a government shutdown, the House is in a familiar position: effectively paralyzed as conservatives feud with Speaker Kevin McCarthy over matters large and small. McCarthy has pushed the Republican conference to embrace a short-term funding plan that would also include a sweeping Republican proposal for the […]

6 hours ago

Associated Press

186.000 migrants and refugees arrived in southern Europe so far this year, most in Italy, UN says

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. refugee agency said Thursday that some 186,000 migrants and refugees arrived in southern Europe so far this year, the vast majority in Italy. Between January and Sept. 24, over 2,500 people seeking to cross the Mediterranean were found dead or are still missing, a significant increase from the 1,680 […]

7 hours ago

Associated Press

Hawaii authorities search for man with handgun he gets into scuffle on Army base and flees

HONOLULU (AP) — Hawaii authorities were looking for a man who fled with a handgun after getting into a scuffle while trying to talk to soldiers at an Army base, officials said. No shots were fired but the Army treated it as an “active shooter situation” and two military bases on Oahu went into lockdown […]

8 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Swedish Cyberknife...

September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

September is a busy month on the sports calendar and also holds a very special designation: Prostate Cancer Awareness Month.

Ziply Fiber...

Dan Miller

The truth about Gigs, Gs and other internet marketing jargon

If you’re confused by internet technologies and marketing jargon, you’re not alone. Here's how you can make an informed decision.

Education families...

Education that meets the needs of students, families

Washington Virtual Academies (WAVA) is a program of Omak School District that is a full-time online public school for students in grades K-12.

Emergency preparedness...

Emergency planning for the worst-case scenario

What would you do if you woke up in the middle of the night and heard an intruder in your kitchen? West Coast Armory North can help.

Innovative Education...

The Power of an Innovative Education

Parents and students in Washington state have the power to reimagine the K-12 educational experience through Insight School of Washington.

Medicare fraud...

If you’re on Medicare, you can help stop fraud!

Fraud costs Medicare an estimated $60 billion each year and ultimately raises the cost of health care for everyone.

Utah Republicans defend book removal law while protesting district that banned Bible