Rep. Ivory decries ‘rogue’ Davis School District committee behind Bible decision
Rick Bowmer, Associated Press
The lawmaker behind the state measure figuring in the controversy over the removal of the Bible from Davis School District junior high and elementary schools has tough words for those involved in the decision.
Utah Rep. Ken Ivory, a West Jordan Republican, called the body that reviewed the Bible a “rogue committee,” saying it acted “anonymously and in secret.” He questions whether the body followed its own policy in determining the King James Version of the Bible runs afoul of district book policy, necessitating its removal from certain school library shelves. The committee determined the book could remain in district high schools.
“It’s an anonymous committee, operating in secret, not according to the basic principles of American politics and legal practice, where you have notice and an opportunity to be heard and have all of the evidence and data in making decisions,” he told the Standard-Examiner on Wednesday.
Ivory sponsored House Bill 374, approved by lawmakers in 2022 and spur for creation of controversial “sensitive materials” policies governing books in public schools across Utah, behind the challenge to the Bible. Now he’s saying he may revisit the bill — meant to keep sexually explicit material out of school libraries — for tweaks to prevent book review committees from working in anonymity.
Ivory maintains that the Bible as well as the Book of Mormon should remain on public school shelves. The Bible will be the focus of another review by the Davis school board after someone appealed the May 22 determination it be pulled from junior high and grade schools. The Book of Mormon is target of another challenge, to face initial scrutiny by a Davis School District book review committee
Rick Bowmer, Associated Press
“If they now decide to follow their own policies and procedures and state law, neither the Book of Mormon nor the Bible is susceptible to any attack from sensitive material law or policy,” Ivory said. The call for a review of the Bible seemed intended as an attack on H.B. 374 by the anonymous person who made it and backlash to earlier Davis school officials’ decisions to pull other books.
A Davis School District spokesman didn’t immediately respond to a query Wednesday seeking comment on Ivory’s charges. A contingent of foes of the Bible decision, meantime, protested the determination on Wednesday at Utah’s Capitol in Salt Lake City, according to The Associated Press.
“We love the Bible. We love God. And we need God in our nation,” Karlee Vincent of Davis County, one of the protestors, told AP.
Ivory questions whether the Davis School District committee followed a provision of its policy on the matter that states that books under review be considered in their entirety. The policy, as it reads, also requires review committees to consider whether challenged books have “serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value for minors,” tapping “reliable, expert reviews.”
“From literature, from law, from politics, from science to art, where is the data that the Bible has no serious value? There’s none,” he said.
The Bible “relates good and bad matters of history,” he went on, but is not intended to appeal to readers’ “prurient interests.” “They’ve ignored completely those standards. So they’ve equated things like the Bible with materials that graphically, illicitly describe sexual acts to incite prurient interest. Those are very different. There’s no moral equivalent there.”
The decision to pull the Bible stemmed from “vulgarity or violence” in its pages, as permitted under the Davis School District policy, not sexual content, according to the school district. Even so, references to prostitution, incest, bestiality and more in the Bible figured in the initial challenge.
That the committee that reviewed the Bible didn’t have to do so in meetings open to the public is particularly bothersome for Ivory. “This is why we have open and public meetings laws — so that the public can put sunshine on things like this and ensure that the law and the policy is being followed,” he said.
Indeed, he says potential tweaks he’s considering to H.B. 374 include new provisions prohibiting “anonymous, unelected committees” from making determinations on whether books may stay or go. “We’re going to revisit 374 to make sure that we don’t have rogue committees and rogue school districts ignoring the law, repeatedly ignoring the law, and making pronouncements like this to the world and getting people like you all excited,” he said.
Davis School District policy says initial book reviews are to be completed by committees of at least seven voting members that include a school administrator, a licensed instructor who teaches English or “other relvant subject,” a district librarian and at least four parents of district students. Voting on books is anonymous and the majority vote determines the decision.
Furthermore, the policy reads, committee members’ identities won’t be shared in notes on their work “or outside the work of the Review Committee.”
The challenge to the decision to pull the Bible will be considered by an appeals committee made up of three Davis school board members, per the policy guidelines. The unidentified person challenging the Bible decision wants it returned to all schools.
The three members of the Book Appeals Committee, according to the Davis School District website, are board members Brigit Gerrard, Kristen Hogan and Emily Price. The appeals committee will make a recommendation on the appeal to the full Davis Board of Education, which will make the final determination during a meeting.