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Florida man asks schools to ban Bible following the state's efforts to remove books

Chaz Stevens at the Florida Capitol building in Tallahassee, Fla. in 2013.
Brendan Farrington
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AP
Chaz Stevens at the Florida Capitol building in Tallahassee, Fla. in 2013.

A Florida activist known for his tongue-in-cheek petitions to local government agencies has asked school districts in Florida to ban the Bible.

In petitions sent to public school superintendents across the state, Chaz Stevens asked the districts to "immediately remove the Bible from the classroom, library, and any instructional material," Stevens wrote in the documents, which were shared with NPR. "Additionally, I also seek the banishment of any book that references the Bible."

His petitions cited a bill signed into law last month by Gov. Ron DeSantis, which lets parents object to educational materials. That bill came about after some parents complained about sexually explicit books being taught in Florida schools.

Many of those books, such as Gender Queer: A Memoir, deal with LGBTQ themes and coming out stories. DeSantis celebrated the removal of Gender Queer at a news conference after the signing of the law. It's "a cartoon-style book with graphic images of children performing sexual acts," he said last month. "That is wrong."

Liberals have been critical of the legislation. After passage, the state's Democratic leader, Lauren Book, lamented Florida's joining "places like Russia and China, modern-day examples of what happens when free thought and free speech are tightly restricted in all levels of society, including in school."

Lauren Book in New York City in 2019.
Jamie McCarthy / Getty Images for Child Mind Institute
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Getty Images for Child Mind Institute
Lauren Book in New York City in 2019.

So, with Florida the latest flashpoint in the culture wars, Stevens decided it was time to take up arms. His target: The Bible. "My objection to the Bible being in your public schools is based on the following seven points, offered for your learned consideration," Stevens wrote.

Stevens proceeded to question whether the Bible is age-appropriate, pointing to its "casual" references to murder, adultery, sexual immorality, and fornication. "Do we really want to teach our youth about drunken orgies?"

He also took issue with the many Biblical references to rape, bestiality, cannibalism and infanticide. "In the end, if Jimmy and Susie are curious about any of the above, they can do what everyone else does – get a room at the Motel Six and grab the Gideons," he wrote.

The 57-year-old Deerfield Beach man says his ire was stoked after Florida lawmakers decided this month to ban 54 math books that were claimed to have incorporated topics such as critical race theory. "I love the algebras," says Stevens, who studied applied mathematics in college. "And those Tally [Tallahassee] loons just banned a bunch of arithmetic books?"

Stevens sent the petitions as a way to point out the hypocrisy, he said. "If you want to teach morality and ethics, do you really want to turn to a book that wants you to dash babies against rocks?" he told NPR, pointing to Psalm 137:9.

Stevens, who doesn't have any children attending Florida public schools, says he hasn't heard back from any of the school districts yet. But his group is tracking when the emailed petitions are opened. As of late Monday, the Pasco County School District had shared the email internally 35 times, he said — and Duval County reached out to the state capital for guidance.

"My activism in the past has been wildly successful," Stevens said. "And, I imagine, will continue on a similar trajectory."

Stevens said he is particularly interested in drawing attention to the hypocrisy. "I don't have the votes," he said. "My job is merely to turn hypocrisy on itself and let the bureaucrats eat eachother for lunch."

It's not the first time Stevens has made waves for his activism. In 2015, he petitioned 11 South Florida municipalities to either drop the prayer that opens their city commission meetings, or let him lead a prayer in the name of Satan.

After Stevens' requests, some Florida cities ended up dropping their moment of prayer altogether. "The satanic stare withered them down," Stevens told the Sun Sentinel.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Corrected: April 25, 2022 at 11:00 PM CDT
Due to incorrect information provided by Chaz Stevens, an earlier version of this story said the Lake County School District had shared his emailed petition internally 35 times. Actually, it was the Pasco County School District.