The other night the Indian River County School Board voted to remove five books from school libraries.
One book they didn’t remove is a compilation of narratives, including one about sisters who, on separate occasions, get their father drunk, have sex with him, and get pregnant.
Another narrative tells of two sisters, “whores,” and their adulterous escapades. It’s not something I’d publish verbatim in a family newspaper.
That book: the Holy Bible, which also offers the foundation of society’s moral and ethical values. There are scores of Bible copies in Indian River County school libraries. They should not be removed.
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Should Bible be a standard?
Sadun Suranofsky, pastor at Grace Life church in Vero Beach, agrees they should remain. You’d expect as much from a man who, according to the church website, said his “greatest desire both in my personal life and in public is to lift up Jesus in His word and He will draw all men unto Himself.”
The Bible wasn’t among the 156 books challenged by the local chapter of Moms for Liberty and We The People IRC, which on Wednesday emailed a news release with the headline: “Let’s Talk Dirty … School District to Return Over 100 Pornographic Books to the Hands of Children!”
Suranofsky heard about the book challenges recently in a regular prayer meeting of pastors. Others supported yanking the books, but Suranofsky said he dug deeper and reviewed more than 50 of them.
What he found, he said, was language no more descriptive or suggestive than what’s in portions of the holy book. He found the group’s pornography claims somewhat “disingenuous.”
“It was not a good showing of Christian values there,” he said of the meeting, adding he was rudely accosted by three people after who showed him graphic images of pornography they claimed was in school books.
“That should not be allowed in schools,” he said of the images, noting he didn’t see any in his reviews.
Suranofsky said a Christian principal approached him after the meeting to compliment him on his comments before the board. Suranofsky asked the board not to remove the books, because he did not want them to ever remove the Bible.
“I may personally be repulsed by some of the books, but that doesn’t mean they should be removed,” he told me later, noting two of his children are home-schooled, while a third takes dual enrollment classes at Indian River State College.
Suranofsky said his parental rights, which include the choice of where and how his children are educated, remain intact. Book opponents claim theirs were abrogated by the board.
He was pleased the board on Monday voted to give parents the right to go online and strike library books they don’t want their children reading.
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Parents must know what children read
Children reading questionable content without parental knowledge was one of the concerns Jennifer Pippin, head of Indian River County’s Moms for Liberty chapter and parent of 12- and 15-year-olds, had when I spoke to her in November.
She and others remain concerned school officials are violating Florida’s obscenity law by allowing students to read certain “pornographic” language. Others are concerned the district is breaking the law by purchasing such books. The district’s attorney disagrees.
I agree with Suranofsky’s assessment that he — like other faith leaders in our community — do not break the law when they hand out Bibles to minors.
“Our Bible is sexually explicit in many places,” Suranofsky said, citing, for example, the Song of Solomon and lurid detail in the Ezekiel 23 passage about the prostitutes.
The Bible is not depraved or “smut,” as one speaker the other night described some library books, and it certainly has artistic and religious value. Thus, it’s not obscene.
A few classics written in the 1930s were on the list. “Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck and “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley have been challenged for decades. Numerous books I’ve seen on national Advanced Placement or high school summer reading lists also were on the list.
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‘Pornography’ in child’s baseball book?
So was “Baseball Saved Us,” a children’s book that seemed so innocent I looked it up and watched a video of someone reading it. It’s about a young boy in an internment camp for Japanese Americans during World War II, how he learned to play the game and, after the war, was called an epithet by some people in the crowd.
“Draw Me a Star,” by Eric Carle, is a book for infants and toddlers on school shelves since 1998. I think a private school teacher might have given us a copy for our little boys. Perhaps someone was offended by a drawing depicting what the Garden of Eden might have looked like.
And while the challenges supposedly are over “pornography,” it turns out alleged “critical race theory” and LGTBQ content also trouble challengers.
One book, which apparently is not in local schools, on a challenged book list Pippin gave me in November was tame, too.
“The Purim Superhero” is a picture book about children with an “Abba” and a Daddy — two adult men — in the household. I saw no evidence of whether they were partners, friends, brothers, etc.
But even if the men are gay, are book challengers saying it should be removed even if there’s no pornography in it?
The fact is, a large number of families in local schools are not white, straight and Christian. What about their parental rights to have their children read age-appropriate books in school libraries that reflect their family structures?
Yes, there are some racy books on the challenged list I might not want my children reading. But c’mon; some of this reminds me of past witch hunts to create controversies over Bert and Ernie of TV’s “Sesame Street” and the purple character on “Teletubbies.”
Holes in book purchasing system
Pippin and others deserve credit for finding holes in the school system’s book purchasing system. As a result, the board will discuss creating committees to review book purchases and challenges. Unlike the emergency committee of librarians and reading specialists the district needed to review 156 challenges, the board will determine future committee makeup.
Maybe each board member should appoint someone to sit on panels with librarians. That way all members of the public — through elections — would get some voice in community standards used to purchase books.
At some point, though, we’ve got to trust professionals to do their jobs. If, as a parent, you don’t like the job they do, exercise your right to make a different school choice.
But banning the Bible? That’s a non-starter.
This column reflects the opinion of Laurence Reisman. Contact him via email at [email protected], phone at 772-978-2223, Facebook.com/larryreisman or Twitter @LaurenceReisman