Republican representative claims the Bible has been banned in America since 1960s

Rep. Burgess Owens

Republican representative Burgess Owens has bizarrely claimed that the Bible has been banned for all Americans since 1963. 

Owens, who represents Utah’s 4th Congressional District, made the spurious claim on Thursday (19 October), during a House Subcommittee hearing on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education which addressed the banning of “explicit” content from school libraries. 

Holding up a copy of the Bible, the Donald Trump-supporting rep. said: “Some say that we are here today to talk about so-called book burning in K–12 school libraries. 

“One of our nation’s most consequential books, banning was done by Supreme Court in 1963, when officially it mandated the Bible reading, this book, is banned from all of us.” 

Owens added: “Anything to do with federal, it’s no longer, can see it, can no longer read it.”

He said that it may be seen as “unconstitutional” to even hold the Bible up. 

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“Due to the banning of this book, generations of Americans today have no knowledge of the tenets upon which this country has been founded. Tenets based on the belief that with God and time we can truly become a more perfect union,” Owens concluded. 

It is thought that the GOP congressman was referring to the Supreme Court’s 1963 ruling in School District of Abington Township v. Schempp

This ruling did not ban the Bible from schools. It declared that legally or officially mandated Bible reading or prayer in public schools is unconstitutional under the establishment clause of the First Amendment.

The hour-long hearing, entitled ‘Protecting kids: Combatting graphic, explicit content in school libraries’, saw Republican members of the subcommittee attempt to distance their stance from allegations of “book-banning” and anti-LGBTQ+ bias.

Books containing LGBTQ+ themes and characters are among the most-banned titles in US schools. Books that explore themes of race and racism are also targets of right-wing book bans.

In the 2021-2022 school year, a PEN America study found there were more than 2,532 instances of individual book bans, with almost half of the titles banned in US schools featuring LGBTQ+ themes or characters.

Maia Kobabe’s memoir Gender Queer, about growing up as non-binary and asexual, was the most-banned book, having been targeted by 41 school districts between July 2021 and June 2022.

Award-winning authors from Margaret Atwood to Jaqueline Wilson have spoken out against anti-LGBTQ+ book bans, both in the US and around the world.