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THE HARRY POTTER™ BOOKS:

Efforts  to ban the books.

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Sponsored link.


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Read 1,861 book reviews and/or order the book from Amazon.com

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Efforts to ban the books:

Author, Joanne K. Rowling, faced with conservative Christian efforts to censor her books, told the Washington Post: "If you ban all the books with witchcraft and the supernatural, you'll ban three-quarters of children's literature. I positively think they are moral books. I've met thousands of children, but I've never met a single child who has asked me about the occult...a new coalition called the 'Free Expression Network' -- including the American Civil Liberties Uniion, the Natioanl Council of Teachers of English, and People for the American Way -- warned that the removal of Harry Potter books could unleash a veritable avalanche of school-based censorship."

There have been some effort to make the Harry Potter books unavailable to public school students:

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Nationally: According to Education Week: "The American Library Association reports that at least 13 states witnessed attacks on the Harry Potter novels last year, making them the most challenged books of 1999. Given the enormous publicity and forecasted sales of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, we can expect the attacks to escalate when schools reopen in September [2000]."

According to the Boston Globe in 2001-DEC: "The American Library Association placed the 'Harry Potter' books at the top of its list of the most-often challenged books last year, saying that critics had sought to ban the books for occult, Satanism, and antifamily themes." 3

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Public schools of Zeeland, MI: Muggles for Harry Potter is a Michigan non-profit organization that is sponsored by an extensive group of book publishers, civil rights and teachers' associations. They report that attempts have been made to ban Harry Potter books in 13 states. Although most censorship efforts have failed, there are reports of successful book bannings in Colorado, Kansas and Michigan. Gary L. Feenstra, superintendent of schools in Zeeland, MI, placed restrictions on reading, displaying and borrowing of Harry Potter books. His decision in 1999-NOV-22 was based on his reading of the first book in the series, reading comments on the books, and discussions with educators. He decided: 
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The books would not be displayed on school library shelves.

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Students could obtain the books at the library desk, but only if they had a parent's permission.

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The books could not be used in the classroom.

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Students could only use the books for a book report if they had prior written permission from a parent.

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No copies of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire or future books would be purchased for school libraries.

The American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression expressed concern at Feenstra's decision. They concluded that he was motivated by a desire to protect the small minority of children whose parents did not wish them to be exposed to any mention of witchcraft in the Potter books. But by satisfying this minority and banning the books, the majority of children would be deprived of their right to read them. The ABFFE quoted a 1998 decision by Judge Stephen Reinhardt of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. He pointed out the danger of removing a book from the schools simply because it is controversial. In Monteiro v. Tempe High School, Judge Reinhardt asked what literary works would remain in the schools if every group could suppress the books it found objectionable: "White plaintiffs could seek to remove books by Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou, and other prominent Black authors on the ground that they portray Caucasians in a derogatory fashion; Jews might try to impose civil liability for the teachings of Shakespeare and of more modern English poets where writings exhibit a similar anti-Semitic strain. Female students could attempt to make a case for damages for the assignment of some of the works of Tennessee Williams, Hemingway, or Freud, and male students for the writings of Andrea Dworkin or Margaret Atwood." Zeeland parents, teachers and students formed a group: Muggles for Harry Potter, to fight the restrictions. An advisory committee was organized to review the decision of the superintendent. On 2000-MAY-11, Gary Feenstra accepted the committee's recommendations. He retained only the ban on classroom readings in the elementary schools, grades K to 5.

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Anglican church in the UK: Reuters reported that Harry Potter "has been banished from one English school because his magical powers go against the teachings of the Bible. The head teacher of St Mary's Island Church of England school in Chatham, Kent says the tales of wizardly adventures do not conform with her school's 'church ethos'." 15,16 In a letter to parents, principal Carol Rookwood wrote: "I believe it is confusing to children when something wicked is being made to look fun."

Rookwood told the British Broadcasting Corporation that: "The Bible is very clear and consistent in its teachings that wizards, devils and demons exist and are very real, powerful and dangerous and God's people are told to have nothing to do with them. We are a Church of England aided primary school which means the church ethos is very important to what we do." She stated that she is fully supported by the parents of her students. The ban also applies to other books, video and TV programs which portray witches and wizards as harmless and fun characters.

A spokesperson for the UK publisher, Bloomsbury, said "We don't have a great deal to say about it [the ban], just to say we feel the books have a strong moral message and clearly portray good and evil."

Spokespersons for several other Christian schools commented:
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That their policy was neither to stock nor encourage children to read "any books that go against Christian doctrine," not just Harry Potter books.

bullet"I think it [the decision to ban the books] is a bit hysterical, to be blunt. [Much more serious than books about magic were those which promoted] gratuitous violence and gratuitous materialism... Banning books is not the way to go about things; [children would] go and read them anyway."
bullet"We're not very keen on them. Individual children have their own copies, and that's up to parents, but they wouldn't be on our school bookshelves....Our lives are governed by biblical principles and Bible teaching would be to avoid evil and occult and contact with spirits and wizardry."

bulletBend, OR: Greg and Arlena Wilson are the born-again Christian parents of a student in the fourth grade at Three Rivers Elementary School. They feel that the Harry Potter books will lead child readers to "hatred and rebellion." They are asking that the books be banned. The parents said that the books include witchcraft and divination. Greg Wilson said that the fun facade of the books hides an immoral plot, that Witchcraft is disrespectful to God, and that the books teach students to disrespect their parents. "We're teaching this stuff, which I deem as wrong, to young minds -- especially in a public school. That's wrong," he said. 

Interim school superintendent Gary Bruner read one of the books at the urging of his son. Bruner commented: "They want it withdrawn not only for their child, but for all children...I thought it was a pretty well-written, motivating and exciting book." 17

bulletDurham County, ON: Durham County lies to the East of Toronto in Ontario Canada. According to a regional bureau chief for the Toronto Star newspaper, the Durham District School Board was "once acknowledged as one of the best school systems in the world" But the board had "received unwelcome worldwide attention in recent weeks over its decision to prohibit the use of the book [sic] in classes where at least one parent objected to its use. On 2000-SEP-18, the board decided by a vote of 7 to 4 to no longer seek parental permission before the books are used in the public school system. A noisy crowd of about 150 filled the board room, "booing and cheering alternately depending upon the speaker's views. Under the new rules, parents who object to the books will have to file a written complaint with their local school. Each principal will then decide on whether to use the books or not. If parents still object, then their children can be given "alternative studies" -- they will typically read another book. The students would have to stand out in the hall while the Harry Potter books are discussed. The main objections appeared to come from conservative Protestants who believe that the book glorifies Witchcraft. 27 Although Durham County is located in Canada, the story was featured on Family News in Focus, an American news broadcasts from Focus on the Family, a Colorado-based Fundamentalist Christian agency.

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Are parents' concerns valid?

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Unsuitable material? As later books in the series are published, presumably Harry will become involved in age-appropriate activities for an older teenager. This may be too advanced for very young readers.

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Danger? The Potter books do describe some magical incantations and spells. Some teen:
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become interested in these activities, 

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have mistakenly assumed that Wiccans perform similar spells, 

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and have investigated Wicca and other Neopagan traditions. 

Most do not pursue this interest when they find out that Wicca is a religion that requires a lot of attention, work and commitment. To many parents, an interest in Wicca does not represent a threat, because:
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the religion has very strict rules of behavior that prevents Wiccans from harming others. 

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Wicca beliefs are very non-sexist, non-racist and non-homophobic.

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Wiccans are generally very concerned about the environment. 

However, for those conservative Christians who believe that their children will be tortured for eternity in Hell if they are not saved, any deviation from Evangelical Christianity is of immense concern. For them, a son or daughter who became a Wiccan or a member of the United Church would be of great concern. Their concern might be greater for a child that adopted Wicca, because some conservative Christians believe that non-Christian religions are forms of Satanism.

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A Book and video criticizing the Harry Potter series:

  1. Richard Abanes, "Harry Potter and the Bible: The menace behind the magick," (2001). Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store Richard Abanes has written a number of anti-cult books, a book critical of M. Scott Peck, a book attacking end-time prophecy through the ages, and others. Amazon.com reviewers rated this book either very highly (5 stars) or very poorly (1 star -- only because there is not a 0 star rating). You will either love it or hate it.

  2. "Harry Potter: Witchcraft repackaged: Making evil look innocent," a documentary film by "occult expert" Caryl Matrisciana of Jeremiah Films. See: http://www.jeremiahfilms.com/Videos_in_Depth/

  3. Michael Paulson, "Religious ratings: Christian conservatives prefer Frodo to Harry," Boston Globe, 2001-DEC-27, at: http://www.boston.com/dailyglobe2/361/metro/

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Site navigation: Home page > "Hot" religious topics > Harry Potter > here

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Copyright © 2000 & 2001 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2000-JUL-3
Latest update: 2001-DEC-28
Author: B.A. Robinson

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