July 2005

Chris Zammarelli

banned bookslut

A Masterpiece of Satanic Deception

You can't burn witches at the stake any more, but you can burn books about witches. On December 30, 2001, congregation members of the Christ Community Church in Alamogordo, NM held a book burning to destroy what Pastor Jack Brock called "a masterpiece of satanic deception": the Harry Potter series.

This is by no means an isolated incident. J.K. Rowling's books were among what was torched during a March 2001 burning the Harvest Assembly of God Church in Penn Township, Pennsylvania. Rev. George Bender said the event was inspired by Acts 19:19: "Also, many of those who had practiced magic brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted up the value of them, and it totaled fifty thousand pieces of silver." (Which is, I think, what Amazon.com is charging for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.)

In August 2003, the Jesus Non-denominational Church in Greenville, MI held a bonfire to destroy materials that did not promote God, such as the Harry Potter series. Jill Turner, wife of Rev. T.D. Turner, Sr., said, "It's important for children to know that Harry Potter is witchcraft. It really afflicts their minds."

Meanwhile, members of the Jesus Party in Lewiston, ME wanted to have a Harry Potter burning in November 2001, but the town wouldn't give Rev. Douglas Turner a permit to do so. Instead, the group cut the books up with scissors. "It's no secret that I enjoy what I'm doing right now," Rev. Turner said as he shredded a book in the town's center.

When Harry Potter isn't being sliced, diced and roasted on an open pit, he's getting challenged. Rowling was the fourth most challenged author according to the American Library Association from 1990 to 2004.

Obviously, the main reason the series has raised such a furor is because the witchcraft theme, which doesn't jibe with fundamentalist Christian teachings. You can find more than enough websites that detail how Rowling is in league with the anti-Christ to convert the world's children to Satanism, although most don't have the awesome graphic The Cutting Edge has on its anti-Harry Potter page.

But there are other reasons Harry Potter has come under fire. Library Journal reported that Family Friendly Libraries denounced the series for, in addition to having occult subject matter, containing violence and having an antifamily bias.

Others have complained that the stories for not teaching children moral lessons. Chester County, PA parent Ken McCormick told U.S. News and World Report in 2001, "There is no message anywhere in this book that says lying and cheating are wrong."

The article also quoted Carolyn Beebe as telling the Chester County board, "Harry Potter teaches you it's okay to get back at people."

Whatever the reason behind them, the challenges can't be dismissed, as many people do, as being the work crackpots that are easily shrugged off. In 2003, Billy Ray and Mary Counts had to go so far as to sue after the Cedarville, AR school board voted 3-2 to require children to get their parents' permission to check Harry Potter books out of the school library.

U.S. District Judge Jimm Larry Hendren overturned the board's decision, which was based on the "shared belief that the books promote a particular religion." He ordered the books returned to general circulation, saying, "Regardless of the personal distaste with which these individuals regard 'witchcraft,' it is not properly within their power and authority as members of defendant's school board to prevent the students at Cedarville from reading about it."

That won't stop more people from trying once The Half-Blood Prince comes out.