Bible will still be allowed in Broward school libraries

The Holy Bible will stay in Broward School libraries, after surviving a challenge from an atheist blogger and activist who complained the book “is too sensitive or controversial” for public school students.

The Superintendent’s Review Committee, created this year to comply with a state law allowing parents to challenge books, voted unanimously Wednesday to keep the book on district library shelves.

“That was completely expected,” Chaz Stevens, an activist from Deerfield Beach who filed the complaint, told the South Florida Sun Sentinel after the meeting. He didn’t attend Wednesday’s meeting.

Stevens said he plans to appeal the decision to the School Board, saying, “I’ll get my three minutes to quote chapter and verse” of what he finds objectional about the Bible, such as depictions of rape and incest.

“It is obvious the Bible’s content is too sensitive or controversial for a typical classroom setting,” Stevens wrote in his complaint.

Stevens is well-known for challenging religious displays and messages from government agencies around the country.

The vote of the nine-member committee followed an occasionally heated meeting packed with religious conservatives in the audience. Before the meeting, many attendees protested outside the Kathleen C. Wright Administration Center, holding up signs such as “American was Founded on the Bible” and “Don’t Tread on Our Religious Liberty.”

There was never an effort by the school district to remove the Bible from school libraries. Instead, the district was responding to a state law that allows anyone who lives in the county of the school district to file a challenge.

Corie Pinero, of Moms for Liberty, speaks during a Superintendent's committee meeting to review the objection of the Bible being available inBroward County schools at the Kathleen C. Wright Administration Center in Fort Lauderdale on Wednesday, December 6, 2023. The Broward schools at Kathleen C. Wright Administration Center in Fort Lauderdale on Wednesday, December 6, 2023.
Corie Pinero, of Moms for Liberty, speaks during a Superintendent’s committee meeting to review the objection of the Bible being available in Broward County schools at the Kathleen C. Wright Administration Center in Fort Lauderdale on Wednesday. (Carline Jean / Sun Sentinel)

Most of the challenges have come from the right-wing Moms for Liberty, who have been successful in getting several books out of Broward school libraries. But the district has been reluctant to remove most books, although they have restricted some to high school libraries only.

It’s unclear how many copies of the Bible are in district schools, since there are so many different versions of it under different names. A catalog lists more than 300 different titles in school libraries contain the word “Bible” in them, and many of those titles can be found in multiple schools.

State law allows school districts to offer “a secular program of education including, but not limited to, an objective study of the Bible and of religion.”

The committee wasn’t asked to consider whether the Bible is appropriate for classroom use, only for library shelves.

“It is important for world studies. I believe the Bible should be on the shelf. I also think the Torah and Quran should on shelves as well, especially in high schools,” said Elaine Aaron, a retired district librarian who serves on the committee. “Students need the materials to make their own decisions.”

The most heated moments of the meeting came from committee member Corie Pinero, a leader in the Broawrd chapter of Moms for Liberty, whose members have asked for dozens of books with sexually explicit passages to be removed.

She was angry that the committee was asked to consider removing the Bible when members had voted last month against removing the book “Kaffir Boy” by Mark Mathabane. The book, a coming-of-age story about a young boy in South Africa during apartheid, includes some sexually explicit passages, wihich she started reading the meeting.

The committee voted to restrict “Kaffir Boy” to high school libraries only, a move Pinero opposed, saying it should not be in any libraries.

“The Bible does not violate state law. It’s not graphic at all. It’s actually very tame compared to a lot of the books that are in Broward County schools right now,” she said at Tuesday’s meeting.

The Bible has been challenged in some other districts in Florida, including in Palm Beach and Volusia counties, but the districts opted to keep the book.

Members of the Broward Moms for Liberty chapter had asked the Broward district to remove more than two dozen books in the past two years.

Among the books the district has banned are “Let’s Talk About It: The Teen’s Guide to Sex, Relationships, and Being a Human,”  “Flamer”  and “It’s Perfectly Normal,” which are all graphic novels with explicit drawings. The district has also restricted several books to middle or high schools only.

At upcoming meetings, the district’s committee will be asked to remove a number of other books, all challenged by Moms for Liberty members. They are:

  • “All Boys Aren’t Blue” by George Johnson;
  • “Beyond Magenta” by Susan Kuklin;
  • “Forever” by Judy Blume;
  • “Choke” by Chuck Palahniuk;
  • “Identical” by Ellen Hopkins;
  • “Jack of Hearts and Other Parts” by L.C. Rosen;
  • “Lucky” by Alice Sebold;
  • “The Handmaid’s Tale (Graphic Novel)” by Margaret Atwood; and
  • “Tricks” by Ellen Hopkins.

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