Dem 51
image description
GOP 49
image description

This Week in Schadenfreude: An Overreach of Biblical Proportions

We've already written, what, four items about silly political stunts by right-wingers? Let's keep it going. We don't plan these things out, mind you; some days the post just takes on a theme all by itself.

Needless to say, as teachers, we have no patience for book bans. First of all, sometimes you have to study the bad ideas in order to understand whatever it is you're trying to understand. You can't fully grasp relativity without knowing the shortcomings of Newtonian physics. You can't truly understand the origins of the Civil War without studying Southern pro-slavery apologists. You can't appreciate the significance of Sigmund Freud without an awareness of the 19th century thinking on mental illness.

On top of the fact that "bad information" is often useful information, there's also the fact that book bans rarely accomplish what they are supposed to accomplish. All they do is give attention to a book, along with making that book "dangerous" and thus desirable. We are reminded of a movie, actually, namely The Moon Is Blue, which nobody cared about when it came out in 1953, until the city of Boston banned it for being lewd. Then, the theaters were packed in many cities (this was also the plot of an episode of M*A*S*H).

Those rather obvious observations are the basis for this item. Among the many red states that have been on a book-banning binge in the last few years is Utah. In 2022, the state's legislature forbade "pornographic or indecent" books in schools, and created a means by which parents could file a protest and have a book removed. We all know what kinds of books the legislature was intending to target, but the fact is that Utah—being a very socially conservative state—has a vast body of statutes on the subject of "Pornographic and Harmful Materials and Performances." It's Title 76, Chapter 10, Part 12 of the Utah criminal code, and it has 37 different sections.

For example, the code makes clear that "acts of masturbation, sexual intercourse, or any touching of a person's clothed or unclothed genitals, pubic area, buttocks, or, if the person is a female, breast, whether alone or between members of the same or opposite sex or between humans and animals in an act of apparent or actual sexual stimulation or gratification" are considered pornographic. And, again, pornographic books are now banned in Utah schools. Well, you know what book has quite a fair bit of masturbation, sexual intercourse, and other such "deviance"? Yup, the Bible. And so, school districts in the state are now being forced to remove that particular volume from their libraries. After all, the law is the law.

There's another book that's pretty popular in Utah, and that also runs afoul of the law. That would be the Book of Mormon, which is also being challenged. We must confess that while we've read the Bible, we've only read small parts of the Book of Mormon, so we're not clear that the latter has sexual stuff. But it certainly has violence, and "vulgarity or violence" is also forbidden by Utah state law. So, presumably the Book of Mormon's gonna have to go, too.

We applaud the parents in Utah—and apparently it's the Davis School District that's ground zero for this—who are currently hoisting the Utah legislature by its own petard. We can think of no better way to underscore the point that we make above: You often need the problematic stuff in order to make the other stuff work. It's true with the Civil War, it's true in the sciences, and it's true with the Bible. (Z)

This item appeared on Read it Monday through Friday for political and election news, Saturday for answers to reader's questions, and Sunday for letters from readers.                     State polls                     All Senate candidates