Removal of the Bible in Davis School District draws ire of Rep. Ivory and protestors
Holding Bibles aloft and signs such as “Remove porn, not the Bible,” families and people of faith gathered at the Utah State Capitol to protest the Davis School District’s removal of the Bible from some schools. They were joined by Rep. Ken Ivory, the author of the “sensitive materials” law under which the district initially reviewed the Bible.
The Republican is now calling for a special session so that lawmakers can tighten up the 2022 law. He also wants to continue tweaking it during the next legislative session.
Ivory took issue with the process that the district used to review and remove the King James version of the Bible from elementary and junior high schools. He accused the district of delegating the book review to an “unelected, secret, anonymous committee.”
The way the state’s law is written, it’s up to school districts to create their own policies for reviewing challenged books.
The removal came after a review committee — made up of four parents and three staff members — decided the Bible could stay in high schools, but was not age appropriate for younger students due to “vulgarity” and “violence,” though it found the book did not qualify as obscene or pornographic under the sensitive materials law.
There were no public committee meetings and the district did not release the names of those on the committee, neither of which are required by Ivory’s law. The Davis School District policies explicitly allow committee members to have their identity withheld from the public.
Ivory said he wants to change the law so that after a review committee makes a decision on whether a book stays or goes, that recommendation goes to the district’s school board to vote on in a public meeting.
“The final determination needs to be made, or ratified, by elected school board members that the parents can hold accountable if they [the school district review committee] put out to the world such an absurd determination that the Bible has no serious value,” Ivory said.
He pointed to the district’s policies that say when deciding if a book is age appropriate due to violence or vulgarity, they have to “consider the material taken as a whole and consider whether it has serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value for minors.”
Ivory called the Bible the “foundational document for Western civilization” and said it would be absurd to say it has no value for minors.
At a June 6 Davis School District board meeting, Superintendent Dan Linford said they have received appeal requests on the Bible decision, and those will go to a committee made up of three board members. They will then make their own recommendation, and the full school board will vote on it during a school board meeting.
In a statement, the district said it “continues to follow the state law, and it has done so with 60 titles it's reviewed and 37 titles that have been removed from school libraries.” They added that, by policy, the initial review committees are “composed of a majority of parents chosen by lottery.”
Gov. Spencer Cox is calling a special legislative session to change the state’s election law. Ivory wants lawmakers to also look at the state’s “sensitive materials” law.
During the protest, Gayle Ruzicka, president of the conservative Utah Eagle Forum, read a short statement she said was from Gov. Cox, who was not at the protest.
“Our great nation was founded with freedom of religion as a core principle. Our children need to know that and having access to religious texts, including the Bible, in school libraries, should be the key element of their education,” Ruzicka read.
After the protest, Ruzicka compared the Bible to a history book, saying there are also violent sections in history.
“With that way of thinking, they won't be able to teach the Civil War anymore,” Ruzicka said.
The Davis School District reviewed the Bible for age-appropriateness after receiving a complaint from a parent. 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 Dec. 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."