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Religiously based conflict

Book censorship in public School libraries

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Among religious conservatives, the main current topics of greatest concern appear to be restricting equal rights for gays and lesbians, including same-sex marriage, and abortion access. Mark Poole of ProdigalSheep.com attempted to quantify these concerns by searching the Focus on the Family web site. He found:

bullet2,199 results for the words "homosexual" and "gay" (more than the number of mentions for "Jesus"),
bullet1,355 for "abortion"

as compared with only:

bullet342 to "compassion",
bullet254 to "mercy",
bullet232 to "minimum wage",
bullet154 to "poverty",
bullet203 to "AIDS",
bullet81 to "Katrina",
bullet39 to "tsunami"
bullet12 to "Darfur". 1

Atheism will probably be another rising concern among religious conservatives. A series of public opinion polls shows increases in Agnosticism, Atheism, Humanism and secularism in North America. This trend may be reinforced by a small flood of several recent major best sellers on Atheism, including:

bulletDianna Narciso, "Like rolling uphill: Realizing The Honesty Of Atheism," (2004-MAR).
bulletSam Harris, "The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason," (2004-AUG).
bulletDavid Mills & Dorion Sagan, "Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person's Answer to Christian Fundamentalism," (2006-AUG)
bulletRichard Dawkins, "The God Delusion," (2006-SEP).
bulletSam Harris, "Letter to a Christian Nation," (2006-SEP).
bulletVictor J Stenger, "God: The Failed Hypothesis: How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist," (2007-JAN).
bulletChristopher Hitchens. "God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything," (2007-MAY). 2

One expression of the concerns of religious conservatives is seen in attempts to ban books in public school courses and libraries. The following failed book banning is notable because:

bulletIt involved all three concerns: homosexual rights, abortion access, and Atheism.
bulletThe censorship request was unanimously rejected by the school board.
bulletBoth sides in the debate were reported clearly in the media.

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A case in Palm Beach County, Florida:

On 2007-JUL-11, a public school board in Florida rejected a mother's request to have books dealing with three religiously sensitive matters removed from her local school board. 3

Laura Lopez, a parent with three children in Palm Beach County public schools asked the local school board to remove books dealing with atheism, abortion and homosexuality from the school libraries. She said:

"I'm not sending my kids to be abortion doctors. I’m not sending them to be homosexual. I think these books should be removed and not in the hands of kids.... As adults we need to be role models and teach our children good stuff. These things are inappropriate for schools,"

She had found more than 80 books containing what she regarded as: "inappropriate content..." [such as] "boys having sex with boys, girls having sex with girls, graphic photos of abortion, suicide, STDs, and corrupt cops." Although she only checked the libraries where her children attend, at A.W. Dreyfoos High School of the Arts and Royal Palm Beach High School, she believes that similar books are stocked elsewhere in the Palm Beach County school system and across the U.S.

Her son, Jesse, said:

"I'm in support of my mom’s decision. Some of those books teach bad stuff like murder and abortion. ... The School Board really doesn’t know what goes on in the classroom. Some teachers are corrupt. ... The moment we took God out of the school system is the moment everything went downhill."

Opposing Laura Lopez was Judith Seltzer speaking for Planned Parenthood of Palm Beach County. She said:

"Planned Parenthood gets concerned when it's about censorship and puling of books from school libraries. Youth are engaging in sexual relationships, discovering their identity and discussing abortion. It’s good for them to have the information available for teens, youth and schools. We’re alarmed that schools would pull the books from the shelf, that’s censorship and not providing information."

The board voted unanimously to retain the books in the schools' libraries.

bulletCounty Superintendent Dr. Art Johnson noted that a review committee checks the  books to make certain that each is "age appropriate."
bulletBoard member Monroe Benaim said: "As a school board member, I represent all children rather if they are heterosexual, homosexual, pregnant or not pregnant. Our staff provides outlets for all children and means to get it. Some children who may be embarrassed or shy might look to a book on feelings they are having."
bulletBoard member Bill Graham said: "I think if you get more students more time in the library, it would be a safer place. Also, this is a slippery slope. If you take one book off the shelf, there's no end to it."

Lopez plans to continue fighting. She expects to appeal the decision, to circulate a petition among parents and others in the community, and to obtain the support of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) a fundamentalist Christian legal advocacy group. 4

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Mark Poole, "What straw man?," The Prodigal Sheep, 2006-SEP, at: http://www.prodigalsheep.com/
  2. Read reviews or order these book safely from the Amazon.com online book store

  3. Nicol Jenkins, "Palm Beach County School Board rejects mom's request to eliminate atheism, abortion, and homosexuality books," Boca Raton News, 2007-JUL-13, at: http://www.bocaratonnews.com/
  4. The home page of the ACLJ is at: http://www.aclj.org/

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How you got here:

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Copyright © 2007 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2007-AUG-01
Latest update: 2007-AUG-01
Author: B.A. Robinson

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