A local resident’s challenge to the Bible in Flagler County Schools’ media centers is now in appeal and awaiting Interim Superintendent LaShakia Moore’s decision to retain it or take it off library shelves.
Bob Gordon’s challenge of having the Bible available for checkout by students was submitted in June and sat until district staff returned from summer break in August, Moore said.
Since then, the Bible has been reviewed by a panel of secondary-school media specialists, which voted to retain it in district libraries. Gordon has appealed.
He said the Bible is not appropriate for students to check out from school libraries because of passages that reference “rape, incest, prostitution, beastiality, etc.” Gordon also wrote in a letter to the district that the Bible “promotes a hate-filled homosexual bias and contains graphic, vengeful, often sadistic violence, genocide and infanticide.”
He wrote that the Bible also contains science misinformation regarding evolution and the age of the Earth.
Moore did not say when she will announce her decision. She told the Observer it will take time to review the list of passages that Gordon used as examples of sexually explicit and graphically violent material, including promoting death and punishment of homosexuals.
Moore also said the challenge is complicated by the fact that portions of the Bible are part of the Florida Department of Education’s B.E.S.T. Standards for English Language Arts.
B.E.S.T. stands for Benchmarks for Excellent Student Thinking. The reading lists include passages from the Book of Esther (seventh grade), 2 Samuel (10th grade) and the Book of Psalms (11th grade).
All books in student libraries or any text used as learning material should be held to the same standards of appropriateness for school-age children and should not be immune to a challenge.”
— BOB GORDON
Gordon, who is retired, has been a resident of Flagler County for nine years.
He said his challenge is based “on the notion that all books in student libraries or any text used as learning material should be held to the same standards of appropriateness for school-age children and should not be immune to a challenge.”
He said he plans to continue his appeal process if necessary, including going before a special magistrate if his district appeals run out. He said he knows he has little chance of succeeding through district appeals but believes his arguments should be upheld by a state magistrate.
Gordon's challenge follows last year's 22 challenges of Flagler County library books based on sexually explicit, sexually implied or violent material.
“It has to do, certainly, with a little hypocrisy mixed in here,” Gordon said of the Bible challenge. “You can’t hold the Bible to a different standard. That's not fair play. The violence in the Bible is probably more damaging to kids.”
He said calling for the killing of homosexuals and proclaiming that “they are to expect an eternity in hell” is dangerous because the Bible is considered “the unquestioned truth and an undeniable moral doctrine.”
PASSAGES INCLUDED IN CURRICULUM
In an email from Gordon to Moore, dated Sept. 1, Gordon noted that he received a response from Celeste Ackerman, the district’s supervisor of K-12 media, stating that the district team reviewed his request for reconsideration of the Bible.
Gordon quoted Ackerman as saying, “Portions of the Bible are part of our B.E.S.T recommended reading list and cannot be challenged in this format, however, a parent may elect to not have their child read this material.”
Gordon wrote that he disagreed with the decision.
“I am not aware of any reading list exemption to a book challenge or caveats to the submission of a Request For Reconsideration form. None appeared on the form and none were described to me by the various senior Flagler school district discussions as to how to proceed with a book challenge.”
Florida Statute 1003.45 permits the study of the Bible and religion, stating, “The district school board may install in the public schools in the district a secular program of education including, but not limited to, an objective study of the Bible and of religion.”
In an addendum to his challenge, Gordon wrote that the presence of the Bible in school libraries “does not rise to the level of a secular objective program.”
Moore can overturn the district’s decision or agree to retain the Bible on school library shelves. If she accepts the district’s decision to retain the Bible in school media centers, Gordon can appeal to the School Board.
Moore said she is reviewing Gordon’s list of objectionable passages.
I know he is a little disappointed about the time it has taken. We have so many other legislative requirements our team is working on, like cataloging and approving books by statute.”
— LASHAKIA MOORE, Flagler Schools interim superintendent
“I know he is a little disappointed about the time it has taken,” she said. “We have so many other legislative requirements our team is working on, like cataloging and approving books by statute.”
Moore said this is not the first time the Bible has been challenged in Flagler Schools. It was also challenged two years ago, but that challenge was withdrawn, Moore said.
Here is a list of examples Gordon included in his challenge of Bible passages that he said are sexually explicit, contain graphic violence and promote death and punishment of homosexuals:
Sexually explicit — “Genesis 19:30, Ezekiel 23:18-21, Genesis 19:5, Genesis 9:20-27, Genesis 38:8-10, Geneisis 20:11-12, Solomon’s Song of Songs 7, Judges 21, Judges 19, Hosea 1-3, Ezekiel 16-23, Samuel 18:20-30, Exodus 4:25, Deuteronomy 22:22-23, Deuteronomy 25:11-12, Leviticus 20:11, Leviticus 20, Genesis 34.”
Graphic violence — “Kings 2:23-24, Luke 12, Ezekiel 16-23, Judge 11, Jusge 19, Exodus 32, Joshua 1-12, Psalms 137:9, Jeremiah 19:9, Leviticus 24:16, Numbers 31-17-18, Deuteronomy 28:53, 28:27, 23:1, Galatians 5, Exodus 13-15, Book of Revelations (most of).”
Examples of promoting death or punishment of homosexuals — “Leviticus 20:13, 18:22, Romans 1:26-27, Corinthians 6:9-10.”