March 9, 1998 in Nation/World

Bible May Be Scrutinzed For Sex, Violence School Panel Wants Same Standards Applied To Bible As Other Books

Patty Sullivan Mcclatchy News Service
 

The Bible should undergo the same scrutiny given the recently banned school book “American Indian Myths and Legends,” according to the Anchorage School District’s Controversial Issues Review Committee.

The group voted 10-4 that the “school board’s book de-selection action be uniformly applied, and that either the Bible be removed from school libraries on the same terms as “American Indian Myths and Legends” was excluded or that both be included in the school collections.”

The 15-member book committee includes librarians, parents, students, teachers, principals, PTA representatives, minority representatives and citizens at large.

A complaint filed by parent Pam Siegfried prompted Tuesday’s vote. Siegfried objected to the censorship of the myths anthology: “I thought that was a slap in the face to the native culture.”

Siegfried, who has four children in public schools, said she doesn’t want the Bible banned from schools. But she said she hopes the school board will realize it set a bad standard of censorship.

She said she doesn’t believe the school board has a zero-tolerance toward pornography when it comes to beloved and familiar books like the Bible.

“This is ours. This is what we grew up with,” she said. “Let’s put our sacred writing on the block under the same scrutiny.”

In December, after a complaint from a Chugiak High student, the review committee recommended that “Myths and Legends” remain on school shelves, calling it a good resource.

But district administrators asked the Anchorage School Board to ban the book. The board found the book contained sexually explicit material and had it removed from library shelves and made available only to teachers. The board also banned classroom use of the book’s 20 or so most explicit stories.

During the two-hour meeting last week, Siegfried gave examples culled from the Bible that she considers sexually explicit, derogatory toward women, and violent. Those were the standards used to remove the myths book, she said.

She recalled the objections raised about a coyote character in the myths anthology who used trickery to get sex, and said similar tales are related in the Bible. She gave an example from the King James’ version of Genesis 19:31-36. Lot’s daughters got their father drunk and had sex with him so they could bear their father’s children.

Noting the objections to violence in the myths anthology, Siegfried pointed to a scene in Judges 19, in which a concubine was abused all night and then cut into 12 pieces, “together with her bones.”

Committee member Nancy Shaw made the motion to apply the same standard to the Bible that was applied to the myths anthology. She said she is concerned that the mythology book was excluded because it’s unfamiliar, not because of any set policy.

“What would the school board do if it had something familiar that had stories depicting sex?” said Shaw, an Anchorage attorney. “Now we have the whole discussion that was only speculated about in the first round.”


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