Republican Representative Burgess Owens (R-UT) made an untrue claim last week that the Bible has been banned in the United States for over sixty years. Read on to find out what prompted the claims.
A Republican Rant During Congressional Hearing
Rep. Burgess Owens claimed that the Bible was banned in the 1960s in a scattered rant during a House Subcommittee meeting last week. The meeting was a hearing regarding banning certain books with explicit material from schools.
“This Book Is Banned From All Of Us”
“Some say that we are here today to talk about so-called book burning in K-12 school libraries,” Owens began.
“One of our nation’s most consequential books, banning was done by Supreme Court in 1963, when officially it mandated the Bible reading, this book, is banned from all of us.”
“Unconstitutional” To Hold Bible, Claims Owens
Owens was holding a copy of the Bible during his speech. He said it may be considered “unconstitutional that I can even hold it up,” referencing his Bible.
Owens: Young People “Have No Knowledge” of Bible Tenets Due To Banning
“Due to the banning of this book, generations of Americans today have no knowledge of the tenets upon which this country has been founded.”
The Case In Question
In the 1963 Supreme Court case Abington School District v. Schempp, the Supreme Court ruled that schools could not legally require prayer or Bible readings as part of the curriculum or school-sponsored activities. The Bible was not banned as a result of this ruling.
LGBTQ Books Deemed “Sexually Explicit”
Some Republicans have used the defense of keeping explicit material out of school libraries to justify banning LGBTQ-themed children’s books, calling them “sexually explicit” or “pornographic.” The books in question have inclusive language but are not explicit in any way.
Media “Distorting” The Truth
Republicans at Thursday’s hearing denied that they have a bias against LGBTQ books and called such accusations “distorted” by the media.
“A Blueprint for Book Bans”
In 2022, the “Stop the Sexualization of Children Act” was brought to the table by Republicans and has been used as a “blueprint for book bans,” according to Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR).
LGBTQ and POC Stories Take Most Hits
The congresswoman pointed out examples of bias in the banned content, citing that 41 percent of what was banned had an LGBTQ theme and 40 percent was about non-white characters.
Democrat Says MAGA Supporters Are “Pushing Their Personal Agenda”
Bonamici said that far-right politicians and MAGA supporters were passing laws “under the pretext of ‘parental rights,’” but said it was more realistically “a coordinated and apparently well-funded vocal minority of parents and conservative organizations pushing their personal agenda on others.”
Are Conservatives Actually Banning Books?
While conservatives continued to insist that they were not banning books, Dr. Jonathan Friedman from PEN America (director of free expression and education programs) refuted their claims in his testimony.
Book Banning Defined
Friedman said that regardless of semantics, removing content from school shelves constituted book banning. “If on Monday, a student has access to a book, and on Tuesday she doesn’t as a result of a challenge over that book’s content…then that book has been banned.”
Overwhelmingly, LGBTQ and Non-White Themes Targeted
“Again and again, we see targeted, organized, and replicated efforts to ban books with protagonists of color, books about African American history, books about LGBTQ identities,” Friedman said.
What’s At Stake
He continued: “This is what is at stake in today’s movement to ban books. Whether we can live in a diverse society that upholds our traditions of freedom and democracy for us all.”
The Bible Has Not Been Banned, Despite Claims
Despite Owens’s claims, no bans on the Christian Bible have been implemented in the United States. However, bans on other religious texts, LGBTQ stories, and certain history books have been banned.
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