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News in the media: 2000 to 2003

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Recent developments - 2000-AUG to the present time:

bullet2000-AUG-8: England: Location for movie shooting: According to the London Times, UK, the 900 year-old, Anglican, Gloucester Cathedral will be used to represent Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in the upcoming movie by Warner Brothers. The Dean of Canterbury Cathedral had previously turned down a "generous" offer from the movie company, because of concern at the use of Pagan imagery in the stories. The Very Rev Nicholas Bury, Dean of Gloucester, commented: "Gloucester is one of the most beautiful cathedrals, and its friendliness and human scale have often been remarked upon. It is an atmospheric place and good for a story about a boy making friends in his first year at school."
bullet2000-AUG-9: USA: Rumors of movie casting: According to Reuters, Hollywood Reporter said that actor Richard Harris, star of This Sporting Life and The Field is negotiating with Warner Brothers to play the role of Headmaster Dumbledore in the Harry Potter movie. Alan Rickman, star of Galaxy Quest and Dogma is negotiating for the Professor Snape role.
bullet2000-AUG-18: England: Gloucester Cathedral protest: According to Charismanews.com: "Christian Internet company owners Derek and Paula Clare are leading a protest over the Church of England's decision to allow scenes for the first 'Harry Potter' movie to be shot at" Gloucester Cathedral. Paula Clare told The (London) Times: "As adults we should be standing up to say that witchcraft is wrong...Few people understand the spiritual realm and its affect in our lives. There are only two spiritual powers, God and the devil, so if something is not of God it is of the devil." Nick Bury, dean of the cathedral said that the Clares are overreacting. Calling the Potter books "splendid," he said: "They emphasize that truth is better than lies, good overcomes evil, and the use of gifts should be responsible. They are extraordinarily wholesome books, and children should be encouraged to read them." [Author's note: The Clares seem to be confusing imaginative witchcraft (as in the Harry Potter books) and other, unrelated, evil forms of witchcraft.] 1
bullet2000-SEP-22 FL: Separation of church and state issue: Local librarians have presented Certificates of Witchcraft to children who have read the full Harry Potter series books. Some criticized this move, saying that it promotes and encourages interest in witchcraft. Matthew Staver of Liberty Counsel said: "Witchcraft is a religion." On their web site, Liberty Counsel stated that "witchcraft is a religion and the certificate of witchcraft endorsed a particular religion in violation of the First amendment establishment clause. The letter indicated that the government issuing a certificate of witchcraft would be no different than issuing a certificate of baptism or a certificate of confirmation. Both would be an establishment of religion and violation of the first amendment." [Author's note: This seems to be another case of confusing imaginative, fantasy witchcraft (as in the Harry Potter books) with another, unrelated, form of witchcraft -- Wicca in this case.] 2,5
bullet2000-OCT-22: World: Error in Book #4: According to the Toronto Star, a nine-year-old reader discovered an error in the fourth book. A leading character, Crouch, went missing early in the book but later makes an unplanned reappearance. Apparently the sentence should refer to Cornelius Fudge.
bullet2000-NOV-21: USA: Web site: Muggles for Harry Potter will become Kidspeak on DEC-1. They will become the "first Web site dedicated to defending the First Amendment rights of kids.
bullet2001-JAN-26: Australia: Christian school bans Harry: Nambour's Christian Outreach College's senior pastor Dr. Chas. Gullo has banned all Harry Potter books from their primary school library. This is because they are considered to be anti-Christian in content. The decision has been criticized by the Queensland Council of Parents' and Citizens' Association. Having read the first chapter of The Goblet of fire, he decided that "the books are dangerous for young primary school children." Merchandise connected to TV shows about witchcraft, (e.g. Buffy, the Vampire Slayer) was not allowed at the school. [Dr. Gullo apparently includes fantasy literature as "witchcraft."] 3
bullet2001-MAR-3: World: Web site: The Harry Potter web site at http://harrypotter.warnerbros.com/web/home.jsp has a flashy introduction, the first trailer from the upcoming movie, and many other features.
bullet2001-MAR-4: World: Textbooks: J.K. Rowling has written two Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry textbooks: "Quidditch Through the Ages" and "Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them." They will be released on MAR-12. Profits will be donated to Harry's Books Fund established by Comic Relief UK to aid poor children around the world. They will be released on MAR-12.
bullet2001-AUG: World: The Movie: Warner Brothers will be releasing the first Harry Potter movie, based on Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, (called Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone in England and Canada) on 2001-NOV-16.
bullet2001-OCT-4: FL: Jacksonville students need permission to read books: A Duval Country parent from Thomas Jefferson Elementary School complained to the school board that the Harry Potter books contained "witchcraft." Under Duval County School District guidelines, as soon as a book is challenged by one parent, all students must obtain permission from their parent(s) or guardian(s) before they can take the book from a school library. The board also must establish a committee of parents, teachers and librarians to review the book. There does not seem to be any provision to include students in the committee. 4
bullet2001-NOV-11: UK: Box office records shattered: The gross income for the Harry Potter movie ''Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone,'' in the UK reached a new record.
bullet2001-DEC-21: UK: Stills stolen: Someone broke into a room in Leavesden Studios, North of London where the file "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" is being filmed. Stolen were photographic stills from the unfinished movie. The movie itself is scheduled to be released in 2002-NOV.
bullet2001-DEC-26: UK: Rowling completes epilogue: Author J.K. Rowling has already sketched out the plots of all seven of her books, even though only four have been actually published. She has written the final chapter: In an interview broadcast by the BBC on DEC-29, she said: "It's the epilogue and I basically say what happens to everyone after they leave school, those who survive -- because there are deaths, more deaths coming."
bullet2001-DEC-28: USA: Movie does well: The movie was released on NOV-16. By DEC-24, it had grossed $260 million, making it the year's top-grossing film. The Harry Potter books have been best-sellers since the first was published in 1997, and publisher Scholastic Books says there are 55 million copies of ''Harry Potter'' books in print in the United States.

According to the Boston Globe: "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." 6

bullet2002-FEB: USA: Concern that children will be drawn away from Christianity: Lutheran Witness featured an article about Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings in their 2002-FEB edition. 7 The magazine is published by the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod -- a conservative denomination within Lutheranism. The author of the article is Dr. Genee Edward Vieth, professor of English at Concordia University - Wisconsin, Mequon. He does not denigrate children's fantasy literature. Instead, he suggests that "The challenge for Christian parents is to discern the difference between good fantasy and bad fantasy." He believes that "Christian parents still worry that it could be a small leap from fascination with Harry Potter to overt involvement with the occult." His main concern is that "If witches were merely fantasy creations, they would be harmless. But witchcraft is real. Demonism and pagan rituals are not fantasies; they are real." (Emphasis in the original). By writing this, he seems to imply that three of the many activities that have been called "Witchcraft " are identical. That is, that:
bulletImaginary witchcraft in the Harry Potter books, and
bulletReal Witchcraft within Wicca and other Neopagan religions, and
bulletGothic Satanism, a non-existent form of devil worship taught by the church in the Middle Ages and Renaissance

are duplicates of each other. Yet he later admits that the "good" witches at Hogwarts "have nothing to do with the Wiccan or black magic kinds of witches." His main point seems to be that children who are fascinated by the fantasy witchcraft in Harry Potter books may later become interested in real Witchcraft, as practiced by Wiccans, for the simple reason that they use the same ten letter word to describe themselves. He is concerned that since Wicca is a very different religion from Christianity, some children might be lured away from the faith of their parents. Within the belief system of conservative Christians, this would result in God's wrath descending on their children after death, in the form of an eternity of torture in Hell.


2002-SEP-9: Austria: A real school for witches opens:  A six-semester course is now available in Klagenfurt, in southern Austria. School director Andreas Starchel, (a.k.a. Dakaneth) said: "Wizardry is very close to nature and is in no way a form of religion." Students will attend classes in astrology, magic, history of magic, meditation and divination. Later, they will practice preparing potions, making talismans and performing rituals. A spokesperson for the school said: "In the past, witches and wizards were people recognized by society, who used their divining powers and learning to mediate between the visible and invisible worlds. Etymologically, 'witch' means someone who is on the border between our world and the beyond. [The courses will] restore contact with nature, which has been lost by our society." Ananova reports "...Celtic and druidic learning and nature studies play a large part in Starchel's teachings. Stories of the legendary Lord Voldemort and classes in Defense Against the Dark Arts featured in JK Rowling's Harry Potter books do not." 8


2002-SEP-19: New York: Author and publisher win lawsuit: Scholastic Corp. and author J.K. Rowling won a trademark lawsuit in which Nancy Stouffer claimed that Rowling had stolen various character names and the term "muggles" from her writing. Acording to Bloomberg, a financial news network, "U.S. District Judge Allen G. Schwartz fined Stouffer $50,000, ruling she 'perpetrated a fraud on the court' by altering documents after release of the first Harry Potter books." Ms. Stouffer's lawyer, Thomas McNamara, said that his client was "surprised and disappointed'' by the court ruling, and will consider an appeal. He wrote: "We were particularly troubled by the Court's finding that Ms. Stouffer submitted falsified evidence...Ms. Stouffer adamantly denies having submitted any falsified evidence in this case.'' 9


2002-SEP-19: World: Fifth book delayed: The fifth book in the Harry Potter series will not be published during 2002. Ms. Rowling has not completed the manuscript yet. 9


2002-SEP-19: World: New movie coming: The second Harry Potter movie, "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" is slated for release on 2002-NOV-15. The first movie, "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" has grossed more than $942 million in U.S. dollars, making it the second highest grossing movie in history, next only to Titanic in total revenue. 10


2002-OCT-22: An eighth book? The British media have been speculating that J.K. Rowling may write an eight book in the Harry Potter series. Neil Blair of Christopher Little literary agents denied the rumor.


2002-NOV-15: The second Harry Potter movie, "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets," was released.


2002-NOV-20: Conservative Christian parents opposed to Harry: ChristianWebSite.com held a opinion poll, which asked the question: "Will you (or would you) allow your children to see the new Harry Potter Movie?" The response was 81% opposed, 19% in favor. This is a Fundamentalist Christian web site. The poll results may well represent the opinion of conservative Christians, but would not be accurate for the general population.


End of 2002: Movie earnings: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone has grossed about 625 million (U.S. funds). Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets has grossed almost 500 million.


2003-JAN-16: Harry Potter 5 launch date announced: The fifth of seven books in the Harry Potter series, "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," will go on sale on 2003-JUN-21. Perhaps by coincidence, this is the date of the summer solstice. The publisher has released to short segments from the book. It begins: "The hottest day of the summer so far was drawing to a close and a drowsy silence lay over the large, square houses of Privet Drive.....The only person left outside was a teenage boy who was lying flat on his back in a flowerbed outside number four." Later in the novel, J. K. Rowling writes: "Dumbledore lowered his hands and surveyed Harry through his half-moon glasses. 'It is time,' he said, 'for me to tell you what I should have told you five years ago, Harry. Please sit down. I am going to tell you everything.' " Author J.K. Rowling had produced the first four books at the rate of one a year. The delay in completing the fifth book was caused by her recent marriage, her pregnancy, and the logistical difficulties in verifying that the details of the new book are consistent with earlier books in the series. You can read reviews (by people who have not yet read the book) or place your advance order now and Amazon.com will ship it to you when it arrives!


2003-MAY-7: Four people arrested in book theft: Police in Suffolk, UK, arrested three teenagers and a 44-year-old man on suspicion of stealing two copies of the unreleased new Harry Potter novel from the book's printers, Clays Ltd. A walker allegedly found the books in a field near the printers and gave them to a reporter from The Sun newspaper. They have since been returned to the publisher. In a separate incident, three chapters of the new book "Order of the Phoenix" were also returned to the publisher. 11

bullet2003-JUN-21: "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" released:
Book five in the projected series of seven books was released on the date of the summer solstice. During the first 24 hours, 1.7 million copies were sold in the UK; about five million copies were sold in the U.S. Deepti Hajela, book reviewer for the Associated Press comments that the book's hero "isn't the same 11-year-old Harry readers met in the first book." He has now passed puberty, and is considered "depressed" and "angrier" by some young readers. Kathleen Keenan, 14, reviewed the book for the Canadian Press. She found it "exciting, dramatic and completely satisfying....And it was unpredictable, which was good. I think it is probably J.K. Rowling's best one yet." 12

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References used:

  1. "Protest planned for 'Harry Potter' filming," at: http://www.mcjonline.com/news/00b/20000818a.htm  
  2. "Harry Potter in trouble -- censorship or legitimate concerns over the separation of church and state?," AANEWS, American Atheists, news release 2000-SEP-22.
  3. "Harry Potter banned from school," 2001-JAN-26, Religion Today, at: http://news.crosswalk.com/religion/item/
  4. "Jacksonville Students must get OK from parents to read Harry Potter," Associated Press, 2001-OCT-4, at: http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/
  5. "Public Library Backs Away From Giving Certificates of Witchcraft
    to Students who Complete the Harry Potter Book Series,
    " Liberty Counsel, at: http://www.lc.org/pressrelease/
  6. Michael Paulson, "Religious ratings: Christian conservatives prefer Frodo to Harry," Boston Globe, 2001-DEC-27, at: http://www.boston.com/dailyglobe2/361/metro/
  7. Gene Edward Vieth, "Good fantasy / bad fantasy," Lutheran Witness, 2002-FEB, Page 6, at: http://www.lcms.org/witness/Feb02.pdf 
  8. "Europe's first school for witches and wizards opens in Austria," Ananova, at:
  9. Susan Decker, "Scholastic, Harry Potter Author Win 'Muggles' Suit ," 2002-SEP-18, at: http://quote.bloomberg.com/
  10. Phinjo Gombu, "Lawyers ward off Harry Potter imitators," The Toronto Star, Toronto ON, Canada, 2002-SEP-19, Page A35.
  11. Sue Leeman, "Four arrested in U.K. for Potter book theft," Associated Press, The Toronto Star, 2003-MAY-9, Page D12.
  12. Hillel Italie, "Critics and child reviewers love Harry Potter No. 5," Toronto Star, Toronto, ON, 2003-JUN-24.

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

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Copyright © 2000 to 2003 incl., by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2000-JUL-3
Latest update: 2003-DEC-2
Author: B.A. Robinson

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