Liberals have long-rallied against some parents attempts to ban controversial books from student curriculum. But at least one school is taking it a step further and purging books from the school library itself, to the dismay of some parents. What was so offensive that it garnered an entire purge of its content? Apparently, it’s the name of Jesus.
A charter school in Temecula, California has recently banned all Christian material from its school library.
One parent of students enrolled at Springs Charter School was shocked when she saw which books librarians were taking off the shelves to give away. Holocaust survivor Corrie Ten Boom’s popular “The Hiding Place” was among the books targeted for removal. When the parent asked what was going on, library staff told her that they had been given orders to remove all Christian books, books by Christian authors, and books by Christian publishers.
The charter school’s Superintendent Kathleen Hermsmeyer confirmed the book ban in a letter to the Pacific Justice Institute (“PJI”), a religious freedom litigation organization who took the case on the behalf of the concerned parent.
PJI contacted the school’s administration to alert them that they were violating the First Amendment with this book ban. The legal organization's press release states that attorney Michael Peffer sent the school a cease-and-desist letter Aug. 22, “citing long-established Supreme Court precedent that strongly disapproves of school libraries removing books based on opposition to their content or message.”
So how did the school respond to this warning?
According to their press release, PJI says that Superintendent Hermsmeyer ignored the appeal to the First Amendment and stated simply, “We . . . do not allow sectarian materials on our state-authorized lending shelves.”
Brad Dacus, President of Pacific Justice Institute commented:
“It is alarming that a school library would attempt to purge books from religious authors. Indeed, some of the greatest literature of Western Civilization comes from people of faith. Are they going to ban the sermons or speeches of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.? What about the Declaration of Independence that invokes the laws of nature and nature’s God?”
And what exactly qualifies as “Christian?” It’s a subjective judgment that may have the unintended effect of keeping valuable historical accounts and true stories from being read by students.
“The Hiding Place,” for instance, describes Dutch Christian Corrie Ten Boom’s experience hiding Jews in her family’s shop during the Holocaust and later what she experienced as a prisoner in concentration camps as punishment. Since the book was published in 1971, Corrie Ten Boom’s story of the faith which helped her survive has informed and inspired millions. Yet apparently her story is too religious for a secular school to even host in its library.
Though the school has not responded again, the Christian litigation organization is not giving up. They are continuing to fight the school on this issue as a matter of religious freedom.