The Bible is on the latest list of books most objected to at US schools and libraries, targeted nationwide, at times for the sex and violence it contains, but mostly for the legal issues it raises.
“You have people who feel that if a school library buys a copy of the Bible, it’s a violation of Church and state,” said James LaRue, who directs the Office for Intellectual Freedom for the American Library Association (ALA), which released its annual 10 top snapshot of “challenged” books on Monday, part of the association’s State of Libraries Report for 2016.
He added: “And sometimes there’s a retaliatory action, where a religious group has objected to a book and a parent might respond by objecting to the Bible.”
LaRue emphasised that the library association does not oppose having Bibles in public schools. Guidelines for the Office for Intellectual Freedom note that the Bible “does not violate the separation of Church and state as long as the library does not endorse or promote the views included in the Bible.”
The ALA also favours including a wide range of religious materials, from the Koran to the Bhagavad Gita to the Book of Mormon. LaRue added that the association does hear of complaints about the Koran, but fewer than for the Bible.
The Bible finished sixth on a list topped by John Green’s Looking for Alaska, which has been cited for “offensive language” and sexual content. The runner-up was EL James’s Fifty Shades of Grey.
I Am Jazz, a transgender picture book by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings, was number three, followed by another transgender story, Susan Kuklin’s Beyond Magenta. The list also includes Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home, Craig Thompson’s Habibi, Jeanette Winter’s Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan and David Leviathan’s Two Boys Kissing, with one objection being that it “condones public displays of affection.”
“Many of the books deal with issues of diversity,” LaRue said. “And that often leads to challenges.”
The association bases its list on news reports and on accounts submitted from libraries and defines a challenge as a “formal, written complaint filed with a library or school requesting that materials be removed because of content or appropriateness.”
Just 275 incidents were compiled by the ALA, down from 311 the year before and one of the lowest on record. The ALA has long believed that for every challenge brought to its attention, four or five others are not reported. LaRue says the association does not have a number for books actually pulled in 2015.
Challenged works in recent years have ranged from the Harry Potter novels to Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.