Utah district bans Bible in elementary and middle schools ‘due to vulgarity or violence’
The Bible is read aloud at the Utah Capitol, Monday, November 25, 2013. The Bible has been banned at elementary and middle schools in the Davis School District north of Salt Lake City, after a review committee decided it wasn't age appropriate "due to vulgarity or violence." (Steve Griffin/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP)

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The Good Book is being treated like a bad book in Utah after a parent frustrated by efforts to ban materials from schools convinced a suburban district that some Bible verses were too vulgar or violent for younger children.

And the Book of Mormon could be next.

The 72,000-student Davis School District north of Salt Lake City removed the Bible from its elementary and middle schools while keeping it in high schools after a committee reviewed the scripture in response to a parental complaint. The district has removed other titles, including Sherman Alexie’s “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” and John Green’s “Looking for Alaska,” following a 2022 state law requiring districts to include parents in decisions over what constitutes “sensitive material.”

On Friday, a complaint was submitted about the signature scripture of the predominant faith in Utah, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, widely known as the Mormon church. District spokesperson Chris Williams confirmed that someone filed a review request for the Book of Mormon but would not say what reasons were listed. Citing a school board privacy policy, he also would not say whether it was from the same person who complained about the Bible.

Representatives for the church declined to comment on the challenge. Members of the faith also read the Bible.

Williams said the district doesn’t differentiate between requests to review books and doesn’t consider whether complaints may be submitted as satire. The reviews are handled by a committee made up of teachers, parents and administrators in the largely conservative community.

The committee published its decision about the Bible in an online database of review requests and did not elaborate on its reasoning or which passages it found overly violent or vulgar.

The decision comes as conservative parent activists, including state-based chapters of the group Parents United, descend on school boards and statehouses throughout the United States, sowing alarm about how sex and violence are talked about in schools.

Because of the district’s privacy policy, it’s unknown who made the request for the Bible to be banned from Davis schools or if they are affiliated with any larger group.

A copy of the complaint obtained by The Salt Lake Tribune through a public records request shows that the parent noted the Bible contains instances of incest, prostitution and rape. The complaint derided a “bad faith process” and said the district was “ceding our children’s education, First Amendment Rights, and library access” to Parents United.

“Utah Parents United left off one of the most sex-ridden books around: The Bible,” the parent’s complaint, dated December 11, said. It later went on to add, “You’ll no doubt find that the Bible (under state law) has ‘no serious values for minors’ because it’s pornographic by our new definition.”

The review committee determined the Bible didn’t qualify under Utah’s definition of what’s pornographic or indecent, which is why it remains in high schools, Williams said. The committee can make its own decisions under the new 2022 state law and has applied different standards based on students’ ages in response to multiple challenges, he said.

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