It's hard to imagine that any school would have a problem with a book about a Christian family that helped Jews escape the Holocaust.
But Springs Charter Schools in Temecula, Calif., not only had a problem with "The Hiding Place," they also took issue with any other book that was written by a Christian author or included a Christian message.
"We do not purchase sectarian educational materials and do not allow sectarian materials on our state-authorized lending shelves," Superintendent Kathleen Hermsmeyer wrote in a letter to attorneys at the Pacific Justice Institute.
Pacific Justice Institute is representing a parent who discovered what they called a "Christian purging" of the charter school's library.
"She was told by one of the library attendants that the library has been instructed to remove all books with a Christian message, authored by Christians, or published by a Christian publishing company," read a letter PJI sent to the public charter school. "The attendant advised that the library would no longer be carrying those books. Indeed, our client was told that the library was giving those books away, and she actually took some."
Among the books deemed inappropriate, the PJI said, was "The Hiding Place" the biography of Corrie ten Boom, a Dutch Christian who was imprisoned by the Germans for helping Jews escape the Holocaust.
"It is alarming that a school library would attempt to purge books from religious authors," said Brad Dacus, president of the religious advocacy group. "This is a major sweep by this charter school to eliminate the religious viewpoint. Libraries cannot engage in an open purging of books simply because they are of a Christian perspective."
Dacus said the charter school must reverse "their ill-conceived and illegal book-banning policy." If they fail to do so, he said, PJI is prepared to take further legal action.
So why would a public charter school take issue with books written by Christians?
I figured Superintendent Hermsmeyer would be more than willing to set the record straight and explain the book purging. It seems I figured wrong. I gave her 24 hours to return my calls, and as of this writing, she has not done so.
But she did reply to the letter she received from Pacific Justice Institute. And what she told them was a bit alarming.
"We are a public school, and as such, we are barred by law from purchasing sectarian curriculum materials with state funds," she wrote. "We only keep on our shelves the books that we are authorized to purchase with public funds."
I'm guessing Harry Potter is OK but Frodo is not.
Pacific Justice Institute said the charter school has violated the First Amendment. They cited a 1982 Supreme Court ruling that said "local school boards may not remove books from school library shelves simply because they dislike the ideas contained in those books and seek by their removal to 'prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion.'" If you'd like to read the entire case – it's Board of Education, Island Trees Union Free School District No. 26 v. Pico.
Hermsmeyer denied they were discriminating against Christian authors or publishing companies. "At no time, however, have we discriminated against Christian authors or publishing companies who create secular educational materials," she wrote.
Heaven forbid the children find a Bible in the library.
It's quite unfortunate that the charter school endorses the banning of books.
"Some of the greatest literature of Western civilization comes from religious authors," Dacus said. Are they going to ban the sermons or speeches of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.?"
I oppose all book banning. If a book offends you, don't read it.
The way I see it – book banning is just one step away from book burning. And I don't mean to pour gasoline on the fire, but we all know what regime did that.