Some Schoolchildren's Parents Not Wild about `Harry Potter': Christians Object to Witchcraft, Double Standard on Religion

By Richardson, Valerie | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), November 30, 1999 | Go to article overview

Some Schoolchildren's Parents Not Wild about `Harry Potter': Christians Object to Witchcraft, Double Standard on Religion


Richardson, Valerie, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


HIGHLANDS RANCH, Colo. - When Elizabeth Lindsey learned her daughter's third-grade class was reading "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," she decided to thumb through the popular children's novel herself.

Now she's fighting to get "Harry Potter" out of the classroom. The story of a boy who goes to sorcery school to learn how to cast spells, ride a broomstick and fight evil spirits may be an entertaining read, Mrs. Lindsey says, but it also is witchcraft.

"The public schools are not supposed to be promoting one religion over another," said Mrs. Lindsey, who is planning to file a formal challenge with the Douglas County, Colo., school district here. "We have enough evil in this world without making it fun for children."

She's hardly alone. As the three novels in British author J.K. Rowling's best-selling series make their way into public school libraries, books fairs and classrooms, some parents - particularly Christians - are raising concerns about whether schools should be endorsing books that glorify the occult.

According to a recent poll of 606 Colorado residents commissioned this month by the Rocky Mountain News, 7 percent thought the "Harry Potter" books are an evil influence on children, 44 percent disagreed and 37 percent didn't know.

Last month, a group of Christian parents in Columbia, S.C., asked the state board of education to forbid teachers from reading the books to students. A district panel rejected the parents' request and subsequent appeal last week.

"We're saying it [the book] can be in the library and available to kids, but we don't want it read in the classroom," said parent Elizabeth Mounce, who assailed the books during a hearing for having "a serious tone of death, hate, lack of respect and sheer evil."

The books have taken the publishing world by storm, selling over 5 million copies in the United States, winning rave reviews from critics and a slew of book awards.

"It's a classic story of good vs. evil. It's full of imagination and it's getting kids to read," said Linda Bloom, a Highlands Ranch parent who heads the Dry Creek Elementary Parent-Teacher Organization. "It's certainly better than `Goosebumps.' "

That argument falls short with Karen Jo Gounaud, a former public school teacher who is president of Family Friendly Libraries in Springfield, Va. She's received hundreds of calls from parents, teachers and librarians in every state.

"Does it have to be pagan to interest kids? I don't think so," she said.

In her Web-site review, "Should `Harry Potter' Go to Public School?" Mrs. Gounaud takes issue with some of the book's gruesome imagery and what she says is its anti-family tone. For example, after his parents are murdered by an evil sorcerer, Harry is raised by cruel relatives who make him sleep in the closet. His only friends are his classmates and the tale's wise and powerful wizards and witches.

But her main criticism lies in the book's spells, chants and other rituals, all too reminiscent of Wicca, a neo-pagan religion.

The Wiccans may be obscure, but they're a federally recognized religion, enjoying tax-exempt status from the Internal Revenue Service. They grabbed headlines earlier this year when they forced the military to appoint chaplains to minister to Wiccan soldiers.

"There's no denying that `Harry Potter' has a lot of symbolism for Wiccans," said Mrs. Gounaud. "Everyone is a witch or a warlock, they're casting spells, drinking blood, they believe in reincarnation . . . . There's no one saying the word, but it's there. …

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