When Disposing Of Sacred Texts, Respect Is Key


There is a story on NPR today: When Disposing Of Sacred Texts, Respect Is Key

This issue is in the news because of the burning of Qurans in Afghanistan. See: In Letter, Obama Apologizes To Karzai For Quran Burnings

In the disposing of religious texts piece people from different religious backgrounds are questioned about disposal of religious texts. Burial and burning are cited several times as correct methods of disposal.

If the U.S. military were to take special steps to dispose of religious texts should libraries be doing the same thing? Religious texts such as bibles and Qurans that are weeded from library collections currently end up in landfills or the recycle bin in some circumstances.

Does your library treat religious texts in the same way as non-religious texts when it comes to disposal? Should libraries treat religious texts differently than non-religious texts?


The anthropologist in me wants to say that one should show respect by disposing of them in the religion's preferred method. Then the part of me that thinks that since I work for a state institution that disposing of them in would somehow infringe on someone's freedom, and then there is the practical side of me that says that realistically we can't dispose of them in special ways because we do not have the resources to do it.

Then of course I think about the treatment they receive while in the institution and I doubt they are held in any reverence while on the shelves. So one must wonder whether this is a mute question afterall since they were never used in any way as intended?

Thus in the end I would answer that we are not bound by anything to treat these items any differently.

"...whether this is a mute question afterall ...". That would be *moot*, after all.

I don't consider any book in my collection to be "sacred."

It was not blessed by any representatives of the religion(s) involved. It was not used in worship. It is not holy. It is an item, just as an old Tom Clancy novel or a cassette lecture on Geometry is an item.

But that's just me.

I don't think any librarian wants to be held to respect the practices of each and every group or religion where we lend the texts for their beliefs. Imagine getting that book back and it's wet, and now we need to isolate it until we find some respectful way to dispose of it... for every possible religion??? or maybe just the ones who might kill us if we don't?

it's insane. if your sacred books can be shipped in the mail in the same carton as my toilet paper, then clearly, you are subjectively enforcing your rules. if you want everyone to respect your books, then don't allow anyone to buy them. why would you enable me to buy 100 copies of something you revere so I can burn them in my yard?

the point is that there are those who want to kill and they will take any excuse.

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