Utahns protest after Davis School District pulls Bible from some shelves
Jun 7, 2023, 5:20 PM | Updated: Jun 16, 2023, 11:59 am
SALT LAKE CITY — The state lawmaker who sponsored a law to crack down on material found to be pornographic in school classrooms and libraries says he wants to revisit elements of the law after the Bible was pulled from some shelves in Davis School District.
Rep. Ken Ivory, R-West Jordan, spoke to supporters of faith and conservative groups during a protest at the Capitol on Wednesday, disputing the claim that as a whole the Bible lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value, as defined in Utah state code addressing “harmful materials.”
Around 100 protesters gathered in the rotunda, many of them carrying their Bibles and signs reading “God cannot be canceled” and “Remove porn, not the Bible.”
“Is there any artistic value to the Bible? Has anyone been to Rome and visited the Sistine Chapel?” he asked the crowd. “Has anyone also been to Paris and in the Louvre, seen ‘The Last Supper’? Or have you been to Florence and seen the sculpture of the David?”
Ivory also said the Bible and its teachings were inspiration for scientists, including Isaac Newton, and for the U.S. Constitution.
“Can you see how absurd this is?” he said.
The committee that reviewed the book for Davis School District explained that the “book does not contain sensitive material as defined in Utah Code,” so it chose to retain the version in high schools while removing it from all elementary and middle schools based on “vulgarity and violence” that may not be age-appropriate.
That decision has already been appealed by “an individual who would like (the Bible) retained at all levels,” Christopher Williams, Davis School District’s director of communication, told KSL.com last week. The Davis School District Board of Education will have the final say on whether the book will be retained.
Ivory said he would like Utah Gov. Spencer Cox to add the issue to the agenda for a special legislative session this summer so lawmakers can tweak the law to resolve what he called an issue of Davis School District not following the “spirit of the law.”
“There’s a very simple fix,” he said. “We simply procedurally require that any such determination, any final determination, has to be made or ratified by the elected board that you parents can hold accountable, and not by secret, unelected, anonymous committees.”
Ivory was the sponsor of HB374 in 2022, a hotly debated bill supporters described as an effort to remove pornographic material from K-12 libraries and classrooms.
The decision to pull the Bible “says nothing about the value of the Bible; it says everything about a rote process where they do not follow Utah’s open and public meetings, they do not follow state law, they do not follow their own policies,” he said.
“We fully expect to call upon the Davis School District to correct this failure of procedure,” Ivory continued. “This expectation that districts would follow the spirit of the law — we’re seeing that they don’t — it’s up to the Legislature to close that gap that it doesn’t happen in any other district.”
Ivory was joined by several religious leaders and advocates, who spoke of the importance of the Bible. State School Board Member Christina Boggess called the book a “seminal text of the American founding,” and Utah Parents United President Nichole Mason questioned how the Bible could be removed when other books with “graphic images” aren’t.
“By removing the Bible from our educational institutions, we risk severing the foundation of our society, legal system, moral compass and commitment to self-governance,” said Gayle Ruzicka, president of the Utah Eagle Forum.
A week after the Davis School District removed the Bible from elementary and junior high school libraries, the district received a similar complaint challenging the appropriateness of the Book of Mormon, the seminal text for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
On Wednesday, the Davis County District released a statement to KSL about moving forward with the Bible’s review:
At this point, the sensitive materials review of the Bible within the Davis School District is not complete.
A request to appeal the earlier decision has been submitted, and an appeals committee, made up of three members of the Board of Education, will review that decision before making a recommendation to the full school board for its consideration.
The district continues to follow the state law, and it has done so with 60 titles its reviewed and 37 titles that have been removed from school libraries.
Its sensitive materials policy is written so that committees, composed of a majority of parents chosen by lottery on each review committee, make those initial decisions.