For the past two-plus years, Christian conservative book banners have been warning us that "pedophiles" and "groomers" are using books filled with sex, incest and other deviancy to "indoctrinate" and pervert the minds of innocent children.
A hallmark of these efforts—led by deceptively named astroturf groups like Moms for Liberty—has been to not actually read the books they seek to ban.
(While M4L's vicious political operatives have been demonizing innocent teachers and librarians, they have also conspicuously ignored hundreds of examples of actual grooming and child rape that have occurred within the GOP and Christian churches over the past two years.)
"Let Kids Be Kids"
As politicians such as Ron DeSantis insist that—in between their traumatizing active shooter drills, at least—we must "let kids be kids," states have passed laws to ensure that children are protected from the dangers of "pornography" in our schools.
One such law was Utah's H.B. 374 which was signed into law in March 2022 and banned "sensitive materials in schools."
In February 2022, one month prior to the Utah law being signed, I interviewed PEN America's Jonathan Friedman for this newsletter and asked him if it would be a good idea to ban The Bible "because of the scene in which Lot’s daughters get him drunk so they can get pregnant by him (or any of The Bible’s disturbing scenes of slavery, rape, incest, bestiality and murder)."
Friedman, quite reasonably, replied:
While doing that might be tempting in this frustrating moment, I wouldn't encourage anyone to recommend banning any book, even in jest or in a tit-for-tat sort of approach. Banning books is always the wrong thing to do. We should be encouraging anyone upset about a book, offended by it, to talk about, to engage in counter-speech, to write about it. Seeking to ban the Bible at this moment reminds me of a Ghandi quote “an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.”
But Utah Republicans were determined to ban books anyway. And like most book banners, they don't appear to do much actual reading.
In May 2022, these elected officials explained the dangers of pornography in school books here.
Even though they admitted that previous challenges to books in Utah failed because the books in question weren't actually pornography, they said they remained committed to enforcing the new law to "protect minors from the explicit sexual, necrophilic, bestial, sadomasochistic and pedophilic content currently found in many Utah school settings."
As their commentary makes clear, the only way forward was to create a new definition of "pornography" that would allow them to target all the books they don't like.
Those "pornographic" books (of course) would mostly be the LGBTQ+ books that Moms for Liberty has singled out for banning.
Apparently, they were completely unaware of all the dirty parts of the Bible.
Republicans Plan, God Laughs
Given the way Utah's H.B. 374 was written, it was perhaps unsurprising that one parent did indeed lodge a challenge to The Bible:
“Incest, onanism, bestiality, prostitution, genital mutilation, fellatio, dildos, rape, and even infanticide,” the parent wrote in their request, listing topics they found concerning in the religious text. “You’ll no doubt find that the Bible... has ‘no serious values for minors’ because it’s pornographic by our new definition.”
The surprising part: The Davis School District in Utah actually banned it.
As The Salt Lake Tribune reported on 1 June 2023, The Bible:
Will be removed from elementary and middle schools for containing “vulgarity or violence.”
That decision on the book challenge — which gained national attention when it was first reported on in March — will take effect immediately.
While the decision is being appealed by another parent, for the time being, kids in the Davis school district can finally be kids, safe from exposure to what the complainant called “one of the most sex-ridden books around.”
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Photo credit: Ben White on Unsplash
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