A watchdog nonprofit seeking to protect the separation of church and state is demanding the Bible be banned from a Florida school district after the superintendent banned five other books due to “sexually explicit content.”
Christopher Line, a staff attorney for the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), sent an email to Leon County Schools superintendent Rocky Hanna requesting that “the District either ban the bible based on the criterion of ‘sexually explicit content’ it has used to ban these books, or cease banning books and return the banned books to school shelves.”
The five banned books were removed from Leon County high school libraries after Hanna personally reviewed them and, as reported by the Tallahassee Democrat, decided they were “black-and-white, cut-and-dray, need-to-be removed.” There was no formal hearing. The books: Dead End by Jason Myer; Me, Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews; Lucky by Alice Sebold; Doomed by Chuck Palahniuk; and Push by Sapphire.
Get the Daily Brief The news you care about, reported on by the people who care about you. The news you care about, reported on by the people who care about you.
“The District cannot ban books because it disagrees with the viewpoint expressed while allowing other sexually explicit books, like the bible, because it supports their viewpoint,” Line wrote. “In the bible, rape is not only described, but the victims are forced to marry their rapists.” He went on to describe moments in the Bible that talk about sex toys, prostitutes, incest, bestiality, homosexuality, and nudity.
Line said the organization has published a brochure called An X-Rated Book: Sex & Obscenity In the Bible that is available for free on FFRF’s website.
The email also emphasized that banning the Bible would not be religious discrimination. “It is important to note that the removal of the bible would not constitute hostility toward Christianity or religion. The District must hold religious texts to the same standards it holds all other library books, review them, and, if they contain the same sexually explicit content as the bible, must also remove them under the District’s pattern and practice. Removing the bible for its obscenity or graphic sexual content based on neutral criteria is not religious discrimination.”
It also acknowledged that the best solution would be to leave the other books on the shelves and “trust students to explore complex topics themselves.”
The books were removed from Leon County high schools at the request of anti-LGBTQ+ hate group Moms for Liberty with help from a 2022 law signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) that says parents can contest academic materials and requires books made available through school and classroom libraries be selected by a certified media specialist.
Priscilla West, chair of the county’s Moms for Liberty chapter, told the Tallahassee Democrat the request from FFRF is not a surprise to the group.
“Those who would prematurely sexualize other people’s children in schools, also do not want children exposed to The Bible. I don’t foresee LCS Board members taking a stand to remove the Bible from school libraries, but even if they did, would it make any difference in the children’s daily educational experience? Happily, in this country The Bible would still be widely available outside of schools to all who choose to enrich themselves with its wisdom.”
Leon County has been making headlines all month for its conservative parents’ efforts to ban books.
Today, the school board will hold a book challenge hearing over I Am Billie Jean King, a children’s biography of the out tennis legend, after a parent filed a complaint objecting to its LGBTQ+ content.
In her formal complaint, filed on April 25 to Leon County Schools, Katie Leon — a parent of a child who attended Hawks Rise Elementary School in Tallahassee, Florida — wrote that she objects “to material that discusses being gay and what it means to be gay” and that she did not think the material was “suitable for elementary students.”
Leon took issue with a single page of the 40-page illustrated book, which describes King realizing she was gay. “Being gay means that if you’re a girl, you love and have romantic feelings for other girls — and if you’re a boy, you love and have romantic feelings for other boys,” the page reads in part.
Leon believes this violates Florida’s Don’t Say Gay law. But at a meeting earlier this month, Leon County Schools assistant superintendent of academic services Shane Syfrett noted that the Florida Department of Education issued a clarification to the Parental Rights in Education Act, stating that “incidental references in literature to gay and transgender persons are not prohibited.”