Virginia School District Deletes Sherlock Holmes Novel From 6th Grade for 'Anti-Mormon' Portrayal

PHOTO: The cover of the book "A Study in Scarlet" is shown.
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A parent's complaint that a Sherlock Holmes novel is anti-Mormon has led to its removal from the sixth-grade reading list in a Virginia county school system.

In a unanimous vote, the seven-member Albemarle County school board chose Thursday night to remove the Victorian-era detective novel, "A Study in Scarlet," that introduced Sherlock Holmes to the world from the county's sixth-grade curriculum because the novel is not "age-appropriate" for 11 and 12 year olds.

"We decided the book is not age-appropriate to be assigned in toto for sixth-grade students," Harley Miles, the board's vice chair, told ABC News. "It certainly can be used in older grades, but there's lots of other books that could be used for sixth grade."

The school board of the affluent district located outside Charlottesville was forced to consider the ban after parents challenged the book on grounds that it denigrates the Mormon religion.

Brette Stevenson, the Henley Middle School parent who first complained about the book in May, argued that the work was not an appropriate introduction for sixth-graders to religion, deduction and the mystery literary genre.

"This is our young students' first inaccurate introduction to an American religion," Stevenson, a Mormon, told the board.

The book was only used in the curriculum at that middle school of about 120 sixth-graders by one teacher but is no longer on the approved list of books available to the entire school system's 1,000 sixth-graders, a spokesman said.

The banned book is the first in the Sherlock Holmes detective series, written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, that follows the travails of Holmes, now arguably one of the world's best-known literary figures, and Dr. Watson, a former military man, in a murder investigation.

The work has been criticized for its depiction of Mormons being involved in murder and kidnapping. One storyline depicts "evil" Mormons forcing a main character, Lucy Ferrier, into polygamy.

"The second half of the book deals with very negative representations of the Mormon faith," Miles said.

Mormons In the Spotlight

The Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the fourth-largest religious denomination in the United States and claims more than 14 million members worldwide.

"Basically, the book was used at the sixth-grade level to look at deduction and reasoning," he said. "We're not saying it's not a good fit, but there are other books that are just as capable."

In the Mormon community, the school board's decision was met with both praise and caution.

"The MDL [Mormon Defense League] is never in favor of banning books from libraries or public access, but we are pleased that Albemarle has looked at what's appropriate for a sixth-grade curriculum and considered removing a book that might promote bigotry," Scott Gordon, president of the Foundation for Apologetic Information & Research (FAIR), a non-profit focused on addressing misconceptions of the Mormon faith, said.

When "A Study in Scarlet" was released in 1887, polygamy was still an official practice of the Mormon church in Utah but it has since been denounced.

"A lot of these books from the 1800s portrayed Mormons as villains," Gordon said. "In those days, Mormons were villains that were going to come steal your wives and daughters. No one knew who we were, just a group out West in America, so we were an easy target."

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