A Study in Censorship

Alyssa Rosenberg has an interesting item today about a move by the Albemarle County School Board to take a Study in Scarlet off the sixth-grade reading list. The boardmembers deemed the first Sherlock Holmes novel insufficiently respectful to Mormons. 

While lost of accusations of racism, sexism, or anti-religious bias that lead to book-banning are specious or un-subtle, this is a sensationalistic novel. There’s no question that Arthur Conan Doyle’s depiction of Mormonism in A Study in Scarlet, written in 1886, 42 years after Joseph Smith’s death but four years before the 1890 manifesto that disavowed plural marriage in the church, is sensationalist. The plot revolves heavily around a forced plural marriage and Mormon military units like the Danite bands

Rosenberg points out that the book isn't entirely unsympathetic to Mormons, and the sensationalism flows in many directions. No one, she says, would ever mistake it for a definitive history of the Church of Latter Day Saints.

And more importantly, even if the details are sensationalistic, it is true that plural marriage and defense of the faith by force are part of early Mormon history. There’s a difference between a right to have the fact that you believe treated with respect, and the right to have the history your faith presented only the terms that make you comfortable, no matter the actual facts. Children also have a right to learn critical thinking in school, and works that offend no one are unlikely to help them develop those skills.

She would like to see the Baker Street Irregulars purchase a bunch of Sherlock Holmes books for Albemarle County schoolkids in response. That's a cause I would gladly support.