banned book with lock and chain
A display of banned books featuring the Bible was not received well.

A Virginia library is in hot water after including the Holy Bible in a holiday display of frequently banned books, as irate parents objected to their holy religious text being displayed next to controversial books like Gender Queer: A Memoir.

The library says the display was merely meant to highlight books that are frequently challenged, but some parents thought the display – complete with rainbow-wearing gnomes – was mocking their faith. The display is already gone, but the drama over it isn’t.

Banning Books for Jesus

According to administrators at the Dolley Madison Library in Fairfax, Virginia, the display was supposed to highlight the “freedom to read” whatever books you like, and to encourage reading during the extra free time many have this time of year. Noting that the display has already been taken down, Library Director Jessica Hudson stated that "it was not the intention of staff to create a display that could be construed as offensive.”

But “outrageously offensive” is how local parent Stacy Langton viewed the display. "It was intentional, it was meant to be offensive."

"It’s a dig on the parents who object to pornography and pedophilia-themed materials in the library, and it’s a dig on Christians as a whole,” she continued. “I think everybody knows where Jesus stands on pedophilia."

She’s referencing the contents of two novels that shared the display with the Bible: Gender Queer: A Memoir, and Lawn Boy. Both books allegedly depict sexual situations between minors, but Fairfax County’s own school board found that neither are obscene or pornographic in nature following a review of those two books earlier this year.

Within hours of the complaints, the library took the display down. 

Checking Out 

Although many agreed with Langton that the banned books display was inappropriate, some pushed back, arguing that the display is actually pro-Bible. After all, the display is merely showing commonly banned books... and arguing your freedom to read them. 

Many commenters pointed out the irony of attempting to ban a display that’s about frequently banned books. One local community member lamented that “this used to be a community where people with different political perspectives could co-exist, and that is no longer happening."

Incidentally, Virginians just a few counties over made headlines recently for wanting not only to ban books they deem offensive, but literally to burn them.

Those objecting to the library's display say it's offensive to put the Bible in the same display with controversial books with LGBTQ themes that depict sexual situations with minors. Those in favor of the display say you're welcome to simply not read books with themes you don't like, but you have no right to keep those books out of the hands of others.

At the heart of the debate is how far we can take our objections to art we don't enjoy.

Is banning and burning books ever acceptable?

42 comments

  1. Dave J's Avatar Dave J

    Answer to the final question. No, it is never acceptable to ban books for other people. You don't like it? Don't read it.

    Don't like sexual content? Better stay away from the bible.(all the begatting and incest.) Don't like genocide? Better stay away from the bible. (Much of the old testament) Don't like slavery? Better stay away from the bible. (Lots of the old testanent, then Peter and Timothy in the new "Nicer" books.) Don't like soft core porn? Better stay away from the bible. (Solomon signs of it.)

    If you don't like something, and it is always the theists, then leave it alone. No one forces you to read anything you don't like.

    1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

      Somebody ought to wrap that bible in a gay pride book cover!

  1. Brien's Avatar Brien

    How about displaying the Bible against the list of priests who have been convicted of sexual crimes against minors. Would that be okay?

  1. Lionheart's Avatar Lionheart

    Yes, quite clearly, the Bible should have been placed next to Harry Potter books, or other works of fiction. Better still, placed in the category of Horror 🤪

    🦁♥️

    1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

      Wouldn't that be funny but appropriate Lionheart, to see the bible between books by Edgar Allan Poe and Stephen King?! That makes me wish I was a librarian.

  1. Gerardo Salazar's Avatar Gerardo Salazar

    The display was simply intended to point those books that have been banned under different criteria; as for the Bible, it’s ilegal to bring one in many Muslim countries as well an in Communist ones so it qualifies as a banned book. As long as people believe that the US isn’t part of planet Earth or that every human must be a Christian these discussions will continue when in reality there are billions who have never heard the name Jesus, abide by their own religious codes and lead very happy lives.

  1. Matthew Mastrogiovanni's Avatar Matthew Mastrogiovanni

    Doesn't the bible say, "Love thy neighbor, as thyself?" It doesn't have any clarifiers. It doesn't say love your: straight-neighbor, or your white-neighbor, or even your christian-neighbor. Just love your neighbor.

    The bible also says let he who is without sin, to cast the first stone.

    As well as "You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye."

    The hypocrisy of it all, is mind bending.

    It's time for Catholicism to be labeled a hate group, like the Klan, Nazis, and Qanon.

    1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

      I've never heard a bible say anything, Matthew. Are you sure you're taking the right kind of medicine?

      1. Cheryl Pettijohn's Avatar Cheryl Pettijohn

        You know exactly what he meant. To belittle him in such a way does not elevate you.

    2. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

      Some of these comments deserve nothing other than a sarcastic reply.

  1. Daniel Gray's Avatar Daniel Gray

    Do the same thing with the Koran.....I DARE you! You will open up such a crap storm as you have NEVER seen before. You think the Christians are bad, you have not seen anything yet if you try this with the Muslum holy book.

    And if you notice they never do this to any other religion except Christians, wonder why or are they just showing us how spinless and cowards they really are?

    1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

      Try it with the Wiccan Rede, and you'll be attacked by winged monkeys!

      1. Daniel Gray's Avatar Daniel Gray

        only in your dreams. and I guess you ignored the attacks from Muslums who think that a person or business somehow attacked their religion or their prophet. Do a google search and see.

        But then again the reason people like you attack christians is that you know for a fact they wont do the same back to you. How pathetic.

        1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

          They'd stop me eventually, but not before finding out that my bite is as bad as my bark. However, there isn't a prejudiced bone in my body, anot only am I currently in association with several Muslims from Iran, but one of of them has been a good p we personal friend and my landlord for many years. I even have friends who are native American, and of German descent. I'm not nearly as bad of a guy as some of my fellow ministers seem to think.

        2. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

          P.S. Most of my friends, and almost all of my more than a hundred know relatives are christians, who don't seem to have a problem with knowing that I'm Wiccan. And I don't have a problem with my friends being Muslims, Christian, Pagan, Jewish, members of the Red Path, Pagan, Wiccan, Satanist, Atheist, agnostic, or whatever else floats their boats. I love them all, and truly belong in the ULC, as someone who deeply honors the fact that we are all children of the same universe! And if you think otherwise about me you are definitely reading me wrong. However, none of that makes me feel any better about Jesus and Christianity, which I think totally sucks, even though I'm perfectly alright with people being christians, or anything else.

        3. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

          And by the way, right now I'm wearing an African men's Dashiki shirt, and have seriously been thinking about buying and wearing atleast a few more of them, as well as a men's Dashiki shawl. And two of my all-time favorite songs are Let The Sunshine In and This Is The Dawning Of The Age Of Aquarius. And I do have a CD of The Fifth Dimension's Greatest Hits. Another favorite is We Are The Champions. I've got a DVD of a Queen concert, and another one downloaded in my 2009 Dell Latitude Professional. And I'm standing on a beautiful Persion rug in my living room right now. Too many people are always reading between the lines, and seeing the worst in others. It even happens on this blog. And I have even been sometimes guilty of it.

          1. Daniel Gray's Avatar Daniel Gray

            Ok NOBODY gives a care that you are Wiccan. But for you or anyone else to try and discredit another religion is not only disgusting but has no call to be here. I am saying the same thing...if they tried this with a Muslum Holy Book they would regret it very much. But for some reason they think they can make fun of the Christian religion and then they wonder why Christians get mad about this?

  1. Daniel Gray's Avatar Daniel Gray

    Does it not also be past time for people like you to be classified as part of a hate group equal to the Nazi's and the KKK and the BLM?

  1. brian ham's Avatar brian ham

    Until you open it a book is simply blobs of ink on a page. How do these people know that the cover accurately describes the contents. A friend of my had a book cover entitled "The Adventures of Noddy in a Turkish Brothel" She used it all the time. People looked shocked on aircraft !

    1. Douglas Robert Spindler's Avatar Douglas Robert Spindler

      Christians don't have to read book, God tells that's what's naughty and what's nice. Non-Christians use their brains and open the cover and read what's inside. If you know your religious history this is what Martin Luther did. He translated the Bible into the language of the people. Once the learned how to read, they found the Pope and priests had been lying to them.

      Religion just doesn't work when people read and think for themselves.

      1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

        It's not aGod, but 🎅 who knows if you've been bad or good Douglas, as it says in the song Santa Claus Is Coming To Town.

  1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

    Matthew, I've never had any reason to believe that christianity wasn't always a hate group. Maybe that hasn't gotten around to everyone yet, but I've been doing my best to spread the message, right here on this blog. It's a good thing for us ministers to spread the truth to the world.

  1. David Arthur Lewis's Avatar David Arthur Lewis

    Christians do not read the bible. They rely on TV hucksters to tell them what it says. From this article, it is clear that the woman,like most of her ilk, has no idea what sort of content it actually contains.

    1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

      I'm nothing like a Christian, but I very much miss the Jim Baker and Tammy Fae Comedy Hour.

  1. Ty Ford's Avatar Ty Ford

    "Parents outraged" clickbait from the Monastery. Yawn....

  1. Master Wolf KSC's Avatar Master Wolf KSC

    The Bible is full of racy, sexual, obscene and graphically violent stories, to which it appears some gentle readers give a pass BECAUSE IT IS THE BIBLE. Quite simply, they are not able to identify metaphor and fable in the magic book that their clergy tells them about. No Sunday school handles the the story of Judges 4:21 that I know of:

    "But as he lay sleeping from exhaustion, Heber's wife Jael took a tent peg, grabbed a hammer, and went silently to Sisera. She drove the peg through his temple and into the ground, and he died."

    He was UNARMED! He was sleeping through exhaustion! Was she wrong to do that? Was she right? Was it complicated? Never heard a pastor preach about this particular verse. I think I want to talk about that in a sermon on HALLOWEEN!

    Stephen King couldn't write something more chilling.

  1. John Anderson's Avatar John Anderson

    The Bible HAS been banned in some jurisdictions (including parts of it that were banned in certain of the original 13 colonies), so it qualifies as a book that has been banned. Just because they put it next to other books that the parents in that community WANT banned means jack s**t. As someone who was trained to work in the library field, banning ANY book doesn't help. It just attracts attention to the title, because it is FREE PUBLICITY. I wish people would stop thinking that the way things are now is the way they have always been. The bible of today is VASTLY different from the bible a millennium ago. Every translation introduces slight changes in meaning, and every time a monk hand copied from another, there was a HUGE chance of a mistake being made. The original stories were told in Aramaic, and then written down in Greek.(1) The Greek writings were then translated into Latin(2). These Latin versions were then HAND COPIED for over a millennium (with all the possibility for error being introduced there). The Latin versions were then translated into the vernacular for the region (3). That's three translations just to get to the KJV, in Middle English, not counting the books that were dropped to satisfy the political and personal views of the patrons, such as Constantine and James VI of Scotland. Beyond that, are the translations from the KJV to more modern English. There is almost no exact translation between languages and words change their meaning over time (for example, the line from Hamlet, Get thee to a nunnery, was actually a double entendre at the time it was written, because nunnery could also mean brothel); the translator must CHOOSE what word is closest to the meaning as they understand it (or is closest to the meaning the patron wants expressed). There's no such thing as a perfect translation. What I write today might have a totally different meaning in 100 years, because languages are like those who speak them, living, adaptable beings, as opposed to something that is static and unchanging.

    1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

      Believe it or not, I have a Thomas Kincade Family Bible (new King James version) sitting on the shelf above my fireplace, collecting dust. I would never think of reading it, but very much like the pictures. It doesn't sit next to other books, but between two lion statues. And then there are my dragon statues! So, nobody ever dates pick it up. It's definitely banned reading in my home.

    2. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

      Thou doth speaketh the truth!

  1. Kurt Neuleuf's Avatar Kurt Neuleuf

    I have a few questions I would like answered. Who or what gives any person the authority to speak on other peoples ethics, beliefs, lifestyles or morals?? Are these people born superior to the rest of humanity? How did these personages get the right to censor for the whole of the community or even humanity? I have read several books that say man has free will, to make decisions and to live to their moral, ethical and cultural standards. Does this only apply to the superior few who can pass judgement on the rest of humanity while being impervious to judgement themselves?? Even the clergy, who have moral and ethical obligations to humanity, are not above judgement or censure when society sees fit. Can someybody point out these Outrage (d)/ (s) few so that I may be able to avoid them or their wrath?

    1. James C Riggle's Avatar James C Riggle

      These people believe that God gives them the right to act superior. They think they know all and should sheppard the rest of us. They are delusional.

    2. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

      Have you met a man named flugo, Kurt, who has sometimes been called Bob Fleutsch. He's a good one to start with.

      1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

        "Here flugo, here boy"!

  1. Linda weeks's Avatar Linda weeks

    Interesting that those who get upset can’t see the irony.

  1. Cindy L Edgar's Avatar Cindy L Edgar

    For one Christianity was created by one person and one person only and that was really a Caesar so no I did not believe in Christianity Christianity is the one that stole must have everything from paganism so why would I spread the word about Christianity

  1. Dorothy A. Hanson's Avatar Dorothy A. Hanson

    Whenever I hear the words "banned books" I am immediately reminded of Nazi Germany, Hitler's need to control the populace and brainwash them with his propaganda to achieve power for extremely negative results. When one person violates the right, the free choice of another, we have lost the evolution of human beings. Humans are perpetually, over the centuries, plagued by three words, "money, property and prestige" and the power to achieve more than the next person. Banning books is all about power and control. I would always stand with those who are protecting their birthright of "free choice". The United Nations has a decree, "The Universal Declaration of Human Rights"; and John Rawls in his "A Theory of Juastice" explains the necessity of free choice. Stay alert to what is happening around us in our Democracy, it al;ways starts out small. Sending love to all, it is all there is, the rest is but a distraction from spiritual evolution.

  1. Nicholas J Page's Avatar Nicholas J Page

    I believe the Bible was the first written book.Over 20 billion sold worldwide No one can or should force you to read or do anything you do not wish to do so.Stop being sheep don't follow anybody and do read what you want to read Nick Page UK Minister

    1. John Anderson's Avatar John Anderson

      Written book? No, that goes to the copies of the Epic of Gilgamesh that resided in the Library at Alexandria (prior to it being burnt to the ground under mysterious circumstances). The story traces back to several centuries before the reign of Ramses II (the pharaoh of Exodus), and was originally written down in cuneiform, on clay tablets. (Portions of it have been found in Mesopotamia, still on clay.) Printed book? No, that title goes to "Art of War" by Sun Tzu, which was printed in China over a millennium before Gutenberg was born. (Although, with Chinese having several thousand ideograms, the type wasn't readily made moveable, like Western European printing processes.) Printed book in Europe using movable type? Yes, it can claim that title. Feel free to verify using your favourite search engine.

      1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

        You might be surprised to hear that I remember reading books during my many incarnations when I lived in Atlantis and Lemuria, before the last time this planet shifted on it's axis (as it does every ten thousand years ( and it isn't time for it to do so yet).

    2. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

      Sheep that follow me get cooked. I must say they are quite tasty in Irish stew, and hagis too, but my favorite is marinated leg of lamb roast.

  1. Gwendolyn Lord's Avatar Gwendolyn Lord

    Fahrenheit 451. Let us continue on the merry path of emulating the social, political, and quasi-religious insanity of the Weimar Republic. (Goggle it folks.) We are only a few steps away. The Bible sitting with the LBGQT community books is a perfect display, with significant meaning during this holiday season. Jesus would have been fine with the assorted folk. Jesus LOVED people.

  1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

    I do believe that some people around here take be themselves too seriously. I hope I'm never one of them. We must not forget to laugh at ourselves.

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