The Freedom From Religion Foundation is cautioning two book-banning members of Congress to be careful what they wish for.
Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., and George Santos, R-N.Y., have co-sponsored HR 863, a book-banning bill. FFRF advises them that this bill could have unforeseen consequences that might give them pause — including for a book that is quite certainly dear to both of them.
HR 863 would prohibit publishers from “furnishing sexually explicit material” to public schools or educational agencies, and would withhold federal funds from schools that obtain such material. There are several major problems with this bill. First, the definition of “sexually explicit material” is notoriously difficult to state with clarity. Second, most of the material that has garnered recent media attention for being “sexually explicit” is tame compared to some classic literature. Rather than objecting to sexual content, the real objection appears to be against books that discuss same-sex relationships or include transgender characters.
And herein lies the rub, FFRF Co-Presidents Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor warn the two censorious members of Congress.
“We urge you to consider the consequences if schools were to take this bill seriously,” they write to Greene and Santos. “May we suggest that, if you care about protecting children, you are looking at the wrong books? If schools comb through their libraries for sexually explicit content, the first book that would certainly need to be removed would be the bible.”
FFRF has attached an addendum to its letter that contains a shocking but only partial list of sexually inappropriate and explicit biblical passages.
For instance, there’s a story in the bible of a prostitute who “lusted after her lovers, whose genitals were like those of donkeys and whose emission was like that of horses.” (Ezekiel 23:20). And then there’s this passage: “My beloved put his hand by the hole of the door, and my bowels were moved for him.” (Song of Solomon 5:4)
Do you really want to offer children this reading material, FFRF asks the two congressional representatives.
Furthermore, the bible’s sexually explicit passages are far from the only objectionable material. There are lots of unsavory themes in the bible. As Richard Dawkins put it so memorably in The God Delusion: “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.” U.S. Founder and patriot Thomas Paine in The Age of Reason observed, “Whenever we read the obscene stories, the voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and torturous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness with which more than half the bible is filled, it would be more consistent that we called it the word of a demon, than the word of God.”
However, history has taught us that banning books is the wrong path, FFRF warns. HR 863 is wrong in principle, as well as being unworkable and having unintended consequences, such as for a book that Christian nationalists like Greene hold dear in their hearts. “We strongly urge you to abandon this misguided bill and to instead focus on efforts that will actually help U.S. public school students,” FFRF concludes its letter to the two Comstockians.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with over 40,000 largely nonreligious members across the country, including members in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. FFRF represents more than 600 members in Georgia and over 2,000 members in New York state. FFRF works to defend the constitutional principle of separation between state and church and educates about nontheism.