POLITICS + GOVERNMENT

Utah lawmakers advance proposal easing the process to ban books from schools

Nov 15, 2023, 3:30 PM

several books stacked on top of each other -- utah book ban possibly getting a new law...

FILE - A pile of books that were challenged in 2021 appear at the Utah Pride Center in Salt Lake City on Dec. 16, 2021. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

SALT LAKE CITY — A committee of Utah lawmakers voted to support a proposal that could open new doors to challenge or ban certain books in the state’s K-12 schools.

The proposal brought before the Utah Legislative Education Interim Committee on Wednesday, would:

  • set a threshold for the number of schools needed to implement a ban on a given book throughout all K-12 schools in the state. Either three school districts or two districts and five charter schools have to ban a book for all schools to follow suit. The proposal initially called for one school district and five charter schools, but it was amended to two districts during Wednesday’s session, and
  • provide two avenues for books to be banned (it has pornography or is deemed to, or, if it doesn’t have pornography, it must have, “serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value,” according to the proposal summary.

So, in theory, a book might not have pornography, but could still be challenged and banned in Utah schools. The proposal would also allow state lawmakers to challenge material in certain areas.

The measure passed 10-4 in the committee, which means it will return to the committee during the 2024 General Legislative Session.

The arguments for/against proposed method to ban books in Utah schools

Democratic lawmakers said they were concerned about what the proposal would do — and what it is already doing. 

Senate Minority Whip Kathleen Riebe, D-Salt Lake City, voted against the proposal. She argued that there are more important issues to discuss.

“We are neglecting the bigger picture. And we’re neglecting the bigger needs by wasting our time arguing,” she said.

Rep. Carol Moss, D-Salt Lake City, also voted against it. “We are undermining professional teachers and librarians when we have discussions like this,” she said.

Republican lawmakers said the proposal would protect children from the damaging effects of pornography.

 “This is not about burning books. It’s not about banning books. This is about protecting the innocence of children,” said Sen. John Johnson, R-North Ogden, who supports the proposal.

Rep. Candice Pierucci, R-Herriman, also voted in favor of the proposal.

“Porn is not classic literature. It’s not. And that’s what we’re targeting here. And so this is about whether or not taxpayers should be funding pornographic books in a K-12 setting,” Pierucci said.

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Utah lawmakers advance proposal easing the process to ban books from schools