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Virginia school district bans Sherlock Holmes book

August 12, 2011 |  1:21 pm

Arthur Conan Doyle

That's right, Watson, Sherlock Holmes has been banned. That is, one book featuring the detective has been pulled from the sixth-grade reading list in one Virginia school district.

The Albemarle County School Board has removed Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's first Sherlock Holmes novel,  "A Study in Scarlet" from the list. The two gory murders weren't the problem. The trouble was the way the book portrays Mormonism.

But Sherlock didn't go down without a fight. According to the Daily Progress, 20 former middle school students came out to oppose the book's removal from the list. One student, an upcoming ninth-grader, even said it was the best book he's read.

You don't have to be a world-class detective to see that the book casts Mormons in a bad light, suggesting it's a religion whose adherents are willing to commit murder to protect their ideals. Take this passage from Chapter 3:

"The man who held out against the Church vanished away, and none knew whither he had gone or what had befallen him. His wife and his children awaited him at home, but no father ever returned to tell them how he had fared at the hands of his secret judges. A rash word or a hasty act was followed by annihilation, and yet none knew what the nature might be of this terrible power which was suspended over them."

Although the school board agreed to pull the book from the sixth-grade curriculum, members said they might introduce it in the high school curriculum.

Perhaps then they could use the book to teach a lesson about forgiveness.

It turns out that in 1923 Doyle was invited to speak at the University of Utah during an American lecture tour.

The Salt Lake Tribune says the lecture was followed by a luncheon at which Conan Doyle expressed his appreciation for the way he and his family had been welcomed to the city.

"We are profoundly grateful for the tolerance and cordiality with which we have been received. Frankly, I did not expect to be allowed to speak in the Mormon Tabernacle," he said.

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--Deborah Netburn

Image: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes, is shown in this 1922 photo. Credit: AP

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