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School District in Utah Faces Backlash After Banning the Bible: Part II

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Continued from Part I

The following is some background on what caused the Davis County School District to remove the Bible from elementary and middle school libraries.

Chris Williams, the communication director for the Davis School District, told The Epoch Times how the Bible banning got started.

He said, “Someone who claimed to be a parent of a high school student in the district, but wished to be anonymous, filed a request to the Review Committee back [on] December 11, 2022.”

To be able to make a request to remove a book, one has to have “standing”; that is, one must be a parent or a student in the district, be a district employee with a professional responsibility, or be a school board member over the school where constituents are enrolled.

Williams said that the parent’s Dec. 11 letter “requested that the Bible face the same review process under the same district’s policy as all other books.”

The person sent a list of sexual references in various chapters and verses of the Bible containing such things as incest, bestiality, prostitution, genital mutilation, and rape.

Williams believes the request was really a protest against HB374, the “sensitive material” bill passed in 2021 that is now being enforced in all of the school districts in Utah. Some people are calling HB374 a “book banning bill.”

He thinks the parent who wrote the request was actually trying to make the bill so unpopular that people would turn on the bill and throw it out.

Ken Ivory, the author of the bill, told The Epoch Times and other media: “HB374 is not a book banning bill. It merely addresses age appropriateness, requiring that all instructional materials in all school settings be age appropriate and not contain obscene and indecent materials.”

Sensitive Materials Review Committees

Williams sent information that explained how the review committee process works. There can be more than one review committee. Each must have an odd number of voting members (preferably seven).

A committee includes a non-voting facilitator who is selected by the District Teaching and Learning Director. The facilitator oversees and supports the review process.

The makeup of the committee must include at least one administrator working in a district department or school; a licensed teacher who is teaching English or another relevant subject in a district school; a librarian who works in a district school; and a minimum of four parents, selected at random, with students enrolled in district schools.

When making decisions about what constitutes sensitive material, the committees consider the definitions of pornographic or indecent materials according to the Obscenity Utah Code Ann. §53G-10-103, as well as whether the material contains vulgarity or violence that may make it not age-appropriate.

So far, the committees have been requested to review 101 books and have completed 60 initial reviews. They also have 8 appeals and 16 pending appeals.

The Decision Regarding the Bible

Williams said that the Dec. 11 request to remove the Bible was sent to one of these review committees. The committee examined the selected passages mentioned in the request letter, and after several months’ deliberation, on May 22, they made their decision.

The Bible was to be banned from all libraries and classrooms in elementary and middle schools in the Davis County district. However, the committee members did not believe it qualified as obscene or pornographic under the sensitive materials law or state obscenity laws (Utah State Code 76-10-1235), so at their own discretion they allowed it to stay in high school libraries and classrooms.

Williams said that there was an appeal on May 31 by a parent (who also wants to remain anonymous) “who would like the Bible retained at all levels.” That appeal is still pending. It will be handled by three Davis school board members, who will make a recommendation to the full seven-member school board, who will vote to make the final decision.

Williams said that the superintendent of the Davis School District, Dan Linford, is getting all sorts of criticism and backlash from people around the state and nation for letting the Bible be banned in his school district, but Linford really had nothing to do with the decisions made by the review committee and the school board. The superintendent mainly just has an administrator’s position and does not vote on the board.

Request to Ban the Book of Mormon

Williams said another significant request was made by another anonymous person just a little more than a week after the decision on the Bible. On June 2, the review committee received a request to also ban the Book of Mormon, the other book of scriptures that members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints hold sacred.

According to the request, the Book of Mormon contains stories of wars, a story of a man being burned at the stake, and other tales of violence.

Brad Probst, the former Utah State Senate candidate quoted in Part I, told The Epoch Times: “As with the Bible, the stories in the Book of Mormon are lessons for us to learn from so we will not repeat the mistakes of the past. The stories are not condoning these practices or promoting them as with pornographic or obscene materials.”

The Book of Mormon decision is still pending, as is the decision to reinstate the Bible in all the public libraries and schools in Davis County. There are sessions of the State Legislature taking place to address these issues, and Ivory has expressed hope that the banning of scriptures will not occur in any other district.

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