By James Moore
How to End Book Bans in Texas
“Where they burn books, they will end in burning human beings.” – Heinrich Heine.
There appears to be a viable and useful approach to putting an end to book banning, and it is time to use the template in Texas. More than 800 books have been banned from the state’s schools, and in the Hill Country town of Llano, a dozen books were removed from country libraries. The Llano case, which I wrote about extensively, is being appealed to a federal court, saw county officials pull a dozen titles and close their two libraries based upon the personal tastes of a few elected officials. The Texas legislature, meanwhile, passed a law requiring publishers to mark books for schools according to types of sexual content, which then determines whether they will be bought and distributed to students.
While traveling in Colorado this week, I learned of a dispute over books in one of the city’s local school districts. The Academy School District 20 in El Paso County had recently agreed to withdraw a number of books from school libraries based upon requests from 26 parents back in May. They argued that titles like Push by Sapphire, which provided the basis for the 2009 Academy Award-winning film “Precious,” fit the legal definition of obscenity. Two others included in the ban have also been part of the school board debates in Texas regarding censorship. They are young adult and coming of age titles, Lucky by Rachel Vail, and Identical by Ellen Hopkins. Some of the parents demanding removal of the books are members of Moms for Liberty, a group whose members have publicly quoted Hitler, which is one of the reasons they have been labeled an anti-government, extremist group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
A recent candidate for congress in Colorado Springs, Rob Rogers, offered school board officials and superintendents the insight that there is more sex and violence in the bible than any of the books ASD 20 has marked for banning. Rogers, who is an Air Force veteran and data scientist, argued that the bible meets or exceeds what the district’s protesting parents are using as a legal definition of obscenity, and it, too, needed to be removed. Rogers ran for congress in Colorado’s 14th District and was defeated, but his children attend an ASD 20 school. His request to remove the bible was not immediately answered, though he insists the demands from parents to take other books off the shelves happened quickly after they complained their standards of decency were offended.
Rogers brought into his fight the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF), which argued to the school’s board that the bible contains more violence and sex than almost any book an ASD 20 student might read. The organization’s attorney, Christopher LIne, pointed out language from the bible that ought to be considered offensive under the district’s adopted standards. He quoted the book of Deuteronomy, Chapter 22, verses 28-29, which not only describes rape and tells of victims being forced to marry their rapists.
“One bible story,” he wrote, “is of a prostitute who ‘lusted after her lovers, whose genitals were like those of donkeys and whose emission was like that of horses,’ who ‘longed for the lewdness of your youth, when… (her] bosom was caressed and your young breasts fondled.’ Those passages came from the book of Ezekiel, Chapter 23, verses 20-21. This same story speaks about sex toys: you ‘took the fine jewelry I gave you, the jewelry made of my gold and silver and made for yourself male idols and engaged in prostitution with them.’”
The FFRF lawyer had won his argument by that point but he continued to quote from the books of Samuel, Proverbs, Leviticus, Numbers, Genesis, and others. A story is detailed of how a future husband wins a bride by killing two hundred of her father’s enemies, mutilating their corpses, and bringing back their foreskins as a dowry. Line’s critique also “recounts the exploits of two daughters who, having just witnessed a genocide and the murder of their mother by a pyromaniacal god, supposedly got their father drunk and seduced him in order to bear his children. Yet another book describes sperm, intercourse, menstruation, homosexuality, bestiality, adultery and whores. Another depicts a holy man impaling a woman through her belly and describes in loving detail how to steal and rape virgins as war booty. Yet another tale tells how a woman has her hand cut off for touching a man’s penis. In other passages, women’s skirts are lifted over their face so their nakedness and shame can be exposed to all. Another tale describes a man touching a woman’s ‘hole of the door’ and how her ‘bowels were moved for him.’”
Allowing children to read such lyrical porn in the bible while stopping them from accessing books that talk about LGBTQ issues in a relatively evolved world is a bit more than hypocritical; it’s profoundly absurd, and is keeping religion in schools while forcing out secular information that might actually help a child deal with real life. I’ll quote attorney Line again on keeping the bible on bookshelves at schools while removing others that offend a specific group of parents:
“The bible historically is doubtless the single-most weaponized piece of writing on the planet, responsible for unjust wars, genocide, anti-semitism, violent extremism, subjugation of women and pervasive racism. Throughout the Crusades, the Inquisition, the witch hunts, chattel slavery, the Holocaust, and the history of homophobia, the bible looms large. As Born Again Skeptic’s Guide to the Bible author Ruth Hurmence Green eloquently put it, ‘There was a time when religion ruled the world. It is known as the Dark Ages.’”
Mr. Rogers and his attorney, Christopher Line of FFRF, won their argument. The “legal specialist” for the school district conceded Rogers complaints were valid and the board would be replacing the books that had been banned from student use. Clearly, the idea of removing the bible, regardless of its lascivious language, was more than conservative taxpayers in the district were able to countenance. They backed down to save the bible.
“Consistent with administrative policy,” the district said, “IJL and procedure IJL R, the District must hold religious texts, such as the Bible, to the same standards it holds all other library books, subject to review and reconsideration before removal. After careful consideration, the District assures that the removal of library materials will be based on established policies and procedures. Therefore, any books recently removed without following the District’s procedure shall be reinstated and subject to reconsideration upon formal request.” (Emphasis added.)
Rogers has come up with a fail safe strategy to be used in Texas public schools and libraries. Demand that the bible be expunged because it is, almost certainly, racier than any book on the shelves. If they cannot remove the allegedly holy book, Christian conservatives will drop their complaints about titles with words about farts and puberty. None of the 800 books on the state school board’s banned list will have any problem when compared to the naughtiness of those biblical characters.
God bless Mr. Rogers.
This article was originally published in Texas to the World.
James C. Moore is the New York Times bestselling author of “Bush’s Brain: How Karl Rove Made George W. Bush Presidential,” three other books on Bush and former Texas Governor Rick Perry, as well as two novels, and a biography entitled, “Give Back the Light,” on a famed eye surgeon and inventor. His newest book will be released mid- 2023. Mr. Moore has been honored with an Emmy from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences for his documentary work and is a former TV news correspondent who has traveled extensively on every presidential campaign since 1976.
He has been a retained on-air political analyst for MSNBC and has appeared on Morning Edition on National Public Radio, NBC Nightly News, Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, CBS Evening News, CNN, Real Time with Bill Maher, and Hardball with Chris Matthews, among numerous other programs. Mr. Moore’s written political and media analyses have been published at CNN, Boston Globe, L.A. Times, Guardian of London, Sunday Independent of London, Salon, Financial Times of London, Huffington Post, and numerous other outlets. He also appeared as an expert on presidential politics in the highest-grossing documentary film of all time, Fahrenheit 911, (not related to the film’s producer Michael Moore).
His other honors include the Dartmouth College National Media Award for Economic Understanding, the Edward R. Murrow Award from the Radio Television News Directors’ Association, the Individual Broadcast Achievement Award from the Texas Headliners Foundation, and a Gold Medal for Script Writing from the Houston International Film Festival. He was frequently named best reporter in Texas by the AP, UPI, and the Houston Press Club. The film produced from his book “Bush’s Brain” premiered at The Cannes Film Festival prior to a successful 30-city theater run in the U.S.
Mr. Moore has reported on the major stories and historical events of our time, which have ranged from Iran-Contra to the Waco standoff, the Oklahoma City bombing, the border immigration crisis, and other headlining events. His journalism has put him in Cuba, Central America, Mexico, Australia, Canada, the UK, and most of Europe, interviewing figures as diverse as Fidel Castro and Willie Nelson. He has been writing about Texas politics, culture, and history since 1975, and continues with political opinion pieces for CNN and regularly at his Substack newsletter: “Texas to the World.”
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