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Utah School District Removed the Bible, Now It Might Remove Book of Mormon

Utah School District Removed the Bible, Now It Might Remove Book of Mormon

The Bible
Rick Bowmer/AP

The school district will only circulate the King Jame Bible in high school libraries.

By Zoe Sottile and Paradise Afshar

(CNN) — A Utah school district that recently pulled the King James Bible from elementary and middle school libraries has now received a request to review the Book of Mormon for removal, according to school officials.

Christopher Williams, director of communications and operations at the Davis School District, said the district received a request Friday to review the Book of Mormon for “sensitive material” as well. The Book of Mormon is the religious text used in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which is headquartered in Salt Lake City.

The Salt Lake Tribune reported the request calls for the book to be reviewed because it contains violence, including battles, beheadings, and kidnappings.

Williams told CNN he has not seen the request and does not know the grounds on which it was made.

“There have been no other requests made regarding other religious texts,” Williams said. “The district will treat this request just like any other request and will follow the policy as outlined” on school library media centers.

The request to review the Book of Mormon comes after the district announced they would remove the King James edition of the Bible from the district’s elementary and middle school libraries because of “vulgarity or violence.”

“The committee decided to retain the book in school library circulation only at the high school level based on age appropriateness due to vulgarity or violence,” he wrote in an email.

Williams told CNN he estimated seven or eight elementary schools and middle schools had the Bible in their libraries before the decision.

He said the school district is attempting to follow House Bill 374, a 2022 law which “prohibits certain sensitive instructional materials in public schools” and requires a “local education agency to include parents who are reflective of a school’s community when determining whether an instructional material is sensitive material.” The text of the law defines “sensitive material” as “instructional material that is pornographic or indecent material.”

The original request to review the King James Bible came from a person critiquing the “bad faith process” for reviewing books, according to CNN affiliate KUTV.

“Now we can all ban books and you don’t even need to read them or be accurate about it,” wrote the person in the anonymous request. “Heck, you don’t even need to see the book.”

Corinne Johnson, public relations director at Utah Parents United, a nonprofit which advocated for the 2022 Utah law, told CNN “the parent who challenged the Bible was clearly doing so in an attempt to undermine parents who are working diligently to protect children from addictive pornographic stimulants.”

Williams explained the school district has a process allowing certain individuals, including parents, students and district employees, to request books in school libraries be reviewed for inappropriate material. The “Sensitive Materials Review Committee” consists of a facilitator, at least one administrator working at a district school, a licensed teacher at a district school, a librarian at a district school, and a minimum of four parents with students enrolled at a district school.

A list of sensitive material review requests on the Davis school district website shows the district received a request to review the King James Bible on December 11 and completed the review on May 22. They made the decision to keep the book available in the high school library because they determined the book “does not contain sensitive material” as defined under Utah law. The Book of Mormon does not yet appear under the sensitive materials list on the school’s website.

The school received a request to appeal the Bible decision on May 31, according to the website. Williams told CNN the Bible will now go to an appeals committee of three members of the Davis School District Board of Education. The appeals committee will make a recommendation to the full Board of Education about keeping or removing the book in schools, and the board will make the final decision.

The Davis School District has 73,993 students enrolled in 92 district schools serving students from pre-K to 12th grade, according to its website. The school district is located in Farmington, around 17 miles from Salt Lake City.

CNN has requested a copy of the requests for removal for both the Bible and the Book of Mormon from the school district.

Several states have passed laws to restrict access to books in school libraries

The Davis School District’s requests to review the King James Bible and the Book of Mormon come as a number of states have implemented new laws driving book bans, according to advocates and library officials.

An April report from free speech organization PEN America found book bans rose throughout the 2022-2023 school year. Almost a third of the bans were the result of newly enacted state laws, according to the report.

The report found book bans were most prevalent in five states: Texas, Florida, Missouri, Utah and South Carolina.

A Florida school district has faced lawsuits over its removal of books focused on race and LGBTQ+ issues. And in May, Iowa signed its own bill into law which bans books with sexual content from school libraries and stipulates the libraries can only carry “age-appropriate” books.

Utah Library Association president Patrick Hoecherl told CNN this year has seen an “increase in challenges” toward books in school libraries across Utah.

But he said most of the requests for removals or bans come from a small minority of parents, and do not reflect most parents’ attitudes.

“Really, most parents strongly oppose pulling books from school library shelves,” he said. “They trust their local librarians and teachers over government officials to work with parents locally to make decisions on what books are appropriate for kids.”

Hoecherl cited the 2022 American Family Survey, conducted by Deseret News and the Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy at Brigham Young University. The study found just 12% of respondents agreed books should be removed from libraries if a parent objects, and only 16% believed public school libraries include inappropriate books on their shelves.

He added although the Utah law only specifically prohibits sexual content, in practice, it has mostly been used to target books discussing LGBTQ+ issues and race.

“That’s concerning to us because we know that pulling books based on topic or viewpoint is a clear violation of the First Amendment,” he said.

Hoecherl said the Davis district’s decision to remove the Bible from elementary and middle school libraries was “disappointing.”

“As librarians we want to be providing access to kids,” he said. “It’s important to us that kids have a variety of different viewpoints that are available to them so that they can understand their world and learn about these great works of literature.”

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