School District Bans Sherlock Holmes Novel for Anti-Mormon Themes

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A Virginia school district has banned a book on the legendary sleuther for how it portrays the Mormon faith.

Last week, the Albemarle County School Board removed Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s first Sherlock Holmes novel, A Study in Scarlet, from its sixth-grade reading list. Several former middle school students opposed the removal of the Victorian-era text, one calling it “the best book I have read so far,” but the mystery novel was nonetheless booted.

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Back in May, a parent of a Henley Middle School student complained that the story painted a poor, derogatory picture of Mormons. “A Study in Scarlet has been used to introduce students to the mystery genre,” Brette Stevenson said, adding, “This is our young students’ first inaccurate introduction to an American religion.”

Last Thursday, the school board agreed with the complaint and voted for the story’s removal. It will, however, remain a part of high-school curriculum.

Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson made their first appearance in A Study in Scarlet, a short novel published in 1887. The problematic themes revolve around a long flashback set in 1847 Utah. A large group of Mormons, led by Brigham Young himself, are “depicted as raw crackpots, their religion as primitive and vindictive.” The group discovers a man and child on the brink of death by dehydration, and offers to help them—so long as they adopt the Mormon faith.

Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles, which also features the quirky detective, has been suggested as the replacement text.

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