THE HARRY POTTER BOOKS:
Efforts to ban the books.
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:
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 ."
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
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:
The books would not be displayed on school library
Students could obtain the books at the library desk, but
only if they had a parent's permission.
The books could not be used in the classroom.
Students could only use the books for a book report if
they had prior written permission from a parent.
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.
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:
Bend, 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
||Durham 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.|
Are parents' concerns valid?
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.
Danger? The Potter books do describe some magical
incantations and spells. Some teen:
become interested in these activities,
have mistakenly assumed that Wiccans perform similar spells,
and have investigated Wicca and other Neopagan
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:
the religion has very
strict rules of behavior that prevents Wiccans from harming others.
Wicca beliefs are very non-sexist, non-racist
Wiccans are generally very concerned about the
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.
A Book and video criticizing the Harry Potter series:
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.
"Harry Potter: Witchcraft repackaged: Making evil
look innocent," a documentary film by "occult expert" Caryl
Matrisciana of Jeremiah Films. See:
Michael Paulson, "Religious ratings: Christian conservatives prefer
Frodo to Harry," Boston Globe, 2001-DEC-27, at:
Copyright © 2000 & 2001 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 2000-JUL-3
Latest update: 2001-DEC-28
Author: B.A. Robinson