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Virginia school bans Sherlock Holmes book, says derogatory to Mormons

By Andrew Adams | Posted - Aug. 12, 2011 at 8:02 p.m.



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SALT LAKE CITY -- A school district in Virginia has removed a classic Sherlock Holmes tale from its 6th grade reading list, after determining the text was derogatory to Mormons. News of the move is reigniting the debate over censorship and bigotry.


There were many other books written that said terrible things about the Mormons. But if they're not well known, they're not well read -- they're not going to come to our attention.

–Tony Weller


The Daily Progress in Charlottesville, Va., was first to report the decision on "A Study in Scarlet." It was made after the parent of a middle school student complained. The Albemarle County School Board ruled the book was not age appropriate.

On one page of the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle book, it reads: "Nothing would ever induce him to allow his daughter to wed a Mormon. Such marriage he regarded as no marriage at all, but as a shame and a disgrace."

Scholars point out the famed author later apologized for some of the writing and inaccuracies in the novel. Still, book lovers like Sam Weller's Bookstore owner Tony Weller could not justify the censorship.

"There were many other books written that said terrible things about the Mormons," Weller said. "But if they're not well known, they're not well read -- they're not going to come to our attention."

He and Salt Lake City Library manager Brooke Young suggested more could be learned by allowing the book, reading it and discussing it -- rather than removing it.

"Books and fiction, in particular, are a really great and essential way kids can explore really controversial and dangerous topics in a safe and structured way," Young said.

Still, others are lining up behind the parents' complaint and school board's decision.

Scott Gordon with the Mormon Defense League questioned the reading level of the book and whether past bigotry should be re-taught.

"Books should stay in the library. Absolutely," Gordon said. "But if you're just looking at curriculum -- what's appropriate for a 6th grader in curriculum -- I think that's what school boards are for and I think they made a good decision here."

The board is considering "The Hound of the Baskervilles" as a replacement.

Email: aadams@ksl.com

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