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


"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."

The church disavowed the practice of polygamy in 1890, but the stigma of its polygamist past has remained alive in pop culture, through television shows such as "Sister Wives," and in the news through high-profile cases such as that of Warren Jeffs, the leader of an offshoot sect of the Mormon church who had 70 wives and was, this month, sentenced to life in prison for child molestation.

FAIR this month launched the Mormon Defense League as a rapid-response, campaign-style outlet to handle the church's increased profile and respond to misportrayals of the church in the media.

Two contenders for the Republican presidential nomination, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, are Mormons whose families have held prominent positions in the church.

Broadway is home to the Tony Award-winning "Book of Mormon," a musical that takes a satirical look at the religion, particularly its missionary efforts around the globe, and the church played a central role in a 2008 political battle over gay marriage in California.

"For a long time people have said inaccurate things about Mormons and have gotten a pass," Gordon said. "But I think what's happened with the 'Book of Mormon' and the presidential campaigns, and even the trials and convictions of polygamists not associated with the church, is that the level of awareness has been raised and people are more sensitive.

"Because of that raised sensitivity, more Mormons are willing to step up and point out instances of bigotry when they occur," he added.

The Albemarle County Public School system serves a populous and affluent community. Albemarle is the largest county in the Commonwealth of Virginia, and frequently ranked as one of the nation's top places to raise a family.

The book will remain available to all 13,200 of the county's students in school libraries, but will no longer be listed on the recommended reading list for sixth-grade students.

The school board's decision was based on a recommendation from a committee of parents, community members and school board staff commissioned to study the book. The committee's decision that the book was not age-appropriate was also unanimous.

"The committee decided that the learning goals could be met using another Sherlock Holmes book or another book and not have any effect on the curriculum but get rid of the issue of inaccurate information about the Mormon religion and broaching topics that would be sensitive at age 11," the school district's spokeswoman, Maury Brown told ABC News.

School board vice-chair Miles said the book could easily be replaced by one of Doyle's other novels in the Sherlock Holmes series, such as his fifth novel, "The Hound of the Baskervilles," that Stevenson, the parent who filed the initial complaint, also proposed to the board as a better introduction to mystery.

More than 20 former Henley Middle School students attended Thursday's meeting to show their support for the book and oppose any ban. Quinn Legallo-Malone, a rising ninth-grader at an Albemarle high school, spoke during the meeting's public comment, calling the work "the best book I have read so far."

After the vote, the teenager expressed his frustration with the board's decision.

"It's not what I had hoped for, but I guess they did what's best," Quinn told the Charlottesville Daily Progress newspaper. "I was capable of reading it in sixth grade. I think it was a good challenge. I'm upset that they're removing it."

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