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Utah parent challenges Bible under new book ban law

A Utah parent has raised eyebrows by challenging the Bible under a new state law that prohibits the presence of “pornographic or indecent” material in schools. This law has been controversially utilized to remove books written by predominantly LGBTQ+ and Black authors from school shelves.

The unnamed parent submitted a book challenge to the Davis School District in December, asserting that the Bible is “one of the most sex-ridden books around” and called for its removal from school libraries for evaluation. In the challenge, the parent expressed gratitude to the Utah Legislature and Utah Parents United, an ultra-conservative group claiming to advocate for parental rights in education, for making the book-banning process easier and more efficient, sarcastically suggesting that books can be banned without even reading or examining them.

Utah State Representative Ken Ivory, who sponsored H.B. 374, the book ban bill, denounced the parent’s request as a political stunt that would drain school resources. He highlighted the detrimental effects of sexualization and hyper-sexualization, linking them to sexual exploitation and abuse, and emphasized the importance of keeping such content out of schools. Ivory expressed disappointment in what he calls the parent’s mockery, remarking that it minimized the seriousness of the issue.

Utah Parents United spearheaded the campaign to ban books containing perceived objectionable content in school districts across the state. Brooke Stephens, the group’s curriculum director, even filed a police report alleging that 47 books available in Davis School District libraries contained “pornography” in violation of state law. As a response to their efforts, Utah lawmakers passed and Utah Gov. Spencer Cox signed H.B. 374, which mandates the removal of books containing “pornographic or indecent material” from public K–12 schools.

The Bible challenge submitted on December 11 included an eight-page list of passages deemed unacceptable under the law. The parent, claiming to have read the Bible, cited instances of incest, onanism, bestiality, prostitution, genital mutilation, fellatio, dildos, rape, and even infanticide as evidence of its purportedly pornographic nature. They argued that the Bible, according to Utah Code Ann. § 76-10-1227, held no educational value for minors and should be classified as pornographic based on the new definition.

“Ceding our children’s education, First Amendment Rights, and library access to a white supremacist hate group like Utah Parents United seems like a wonderful idea for a school district literally under investigation for being racist.,” the parent wrote in their complaint.

. In 2021, the U.S. Department of Justice found that the district had intentionally ignored widespread racial harassment within its schools.

Christopher Williams, a spokesperson for Davis School District, confirmed that the Bible challenge has been forwarded to a committee for review. Williams emphasized that the district treats all requests equally and follows the necessary protocols in addressing them.

Utah Parents United defended their actions, asserting their commitment to adhering to the law and requesting schools to do the same. The group denied specifically targeting books on racism or LGBTQ+ themes. However, among the 52 books removed from Alpine School District shelves last summer, there were instances where books seemingly faced challenges based solely on their titles. For instance, the book “SEX: If You’re Scared of the Truth Don’t Read This!” advocates for abstinence. Additionally, LGBTQ-related titles such as Maia Kobabe’s graphic novel “Gender Queer,” George M. Johnson’s “All Boys Aren’t Blue,” and Jonathan Evison’s “Lawn Boy” were also included in the list of banned books.

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