Since July of 2021, more than 200 books have been banned in various school districts across Florida, the state with the third-highest number of school book banning incidents in the U.S. This comes as the Florida legislature and Gov. Ron DeSantis have passed House Bill 1467, which allows members of the public to challenge and ban books available in school classrooms and libraries, and a swath of “anti-woke” legislation purportedly aimed at empowering parents to protect their children’s impressionable minds.
With that in mind, local political stunt activist Chaz Stevens of Deerfield Beach has taken it upon himself to add another book to the lengthy list: the Bible. This week, in letters sent to superintendents in eight school districts in Florida — including Miami-Dade County Public Schools (MDCPS) and Broward County Public Schools (BCPS) — Stevens, an avowed atheist, petitions the districts to ban the Christian Bible from classrooms and libraries, citing its inclusion of inappropriate topics.
“If they’re gonna ban books, then the whole library should be in play. My hope — and it’s a longshot — is that they will apply their own standards to themselves and ban the Bible,” Stevens tells New Times.
Free-speech and literary-expression advocates have been sounding the alarm about what they see as a bureaucratic, authoritarian attack on education in Florida, particularly after recent news that the state rejected 54 math textbooks from the curriculum for allegedly containing prohibited topics such as “Critical Race Theory.” When the state went so far as banning math books, Stevens says, he was inspired to use the same bureaucracy to strike back against the conservative wave with an operation he calls “Eff Off Jesus.”
“I wish to file such an objection, requesting the Miami-Dade County Public School system immediately remove the Bible from the classroom, library, and any instructional material,” Stevens writes in his request addressed to MDCPS Superintendent Jose Dotres on April 19. “And, as is often the case with banned books, I ask your agency lay flame to that giant stack of fiction in a pyre worthy of a Viking sendoff.”
Stevens cites age inappropriateness, social-emotional learning, mentions of bestiality and rape, and “wokeness” as reasons to ban the Bible. Each reason is accompanied by a corresponding Bible excerpt.
“With the constant concerns about teaching Critical Race Theory, should we not take stock of the Bible’s position on slavery? I am concerned our young white students will read such passages and wake up to civilization’s sordid past,” Stevens writes, followed by a passage from Ephesians that speaks of slaves and servants obeying their masters.
Though book-banning incidents have been recorded in seven Florida school districts, none has been documented in South Florida’s school districts.
But at least one South Florida school district has received Stevens’ letter.
“We acknowledge receipt of the subject letter. District staff will review it and respond accordingly,” Elmo R. Lugo, a spokesperson for MDCPS, tells New Times via email.
BCPS Superintendent Vickie L. Cartwright’s office could not immediately comment as to whether the agency received the request and how it intended to address it.
“They better not fucking ignore me,” Stevens warns. “If they ignore me, doesn’t that tell you something? The government can’t pick and choose religion, but can they choose which books they review for banning and which ones they don’t?”