A Virginia school district has removed the novel 'A Study in Scarlet' from its sixth-grade reading list because of the way it depicts Mormons. The book, written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, introduces the character Sherlock Holmes to the literary world.
The Albemarle County School Board voted last week on the appropriateness of the novel for sixth-grade reading lists after a parent of a Henley Middle School student complained that the book was "derogatory toward Mormons," reports The Daily Progess.
In the novel, in a long flashback scene involving Brigham Young and Mormon settlers in the west, Doyle refers to them as "raw crackpots, and their religion as primitive and vindictive," according to Time.
In an excerpt taken from Chapter Three of 'A Study in Scarlet', Doyle writes:
(John Ferrier) had always determined, deep down in his resolute heart, that nothing would ever induce him to allow his daughter to wed a Mormon. Such marriage he regarded as no marriage at all, but as a shame and a disgrace. Whatever he might think of the Mormon doctrines, upon that one point he was inflexible. He had to seal his mouth on the subject, however, for to express an unorthodox opinion was a dangerous matter in those days in the Land of the Saints
The vote by the Albemarle school board, which was based on the recommendation of a committee commissioned to study the work, will not affect students in high school classes. Older students will still be able read the novel in which the characters of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson make their first appearance to Doyle's readers.
Brette Stevenson, the Henley Middle School parent who complained about the book, said "the work was not suitable as an introduction to mystery and deductive reasoning. ‘A Study in Scarlet’ has been used to introduce students to the mystery genre and into the character of Sherlock Holmes. This is our young students’ first inaccurate introduction to an American religion."
Stevenson suggested using another novel by Doyle as a substitute for 'A Study in Scarlet' for the sixth-grade reading list. “The Hound of the Baskervilles is a better introduction to mystery," she told the board, according to The Daily Progress.
Doyle's novel joins a long list of books banned by school boards around the country, which include The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Lord of the Flies, The Color Purple, and the Harry Potter series of books.
Last year the Menifee Union School District in California banned copies of the tenth edition of Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary after a parent complained that the dictionary contained the term 'oral sex' and an explicit definition for the words that was being read by fourth and fifth grade students.