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Harry Potter Controversy



Share This article - Booksellers say the new Harry Potter book series is so popular with youngsters that even those who don't like to read are devouring these books.

However, a growing number of parents nationwide are questioning whether the series of best-selling book's main character is a suitable hero for their kids to admire.

His name is Harry Potter, and the young wizard in training has become the diviner darling of the literary world. His fictional face is on the cover of Time magazine. And there's talk of a Warner Brothers film based on the theme of an orphaned youngster who's learning the "how to's" of witchcraft.

As summarized by one bookseller who quotes J.K. Rowling,

"The young boy with a great destiny proves his worth while attending Hogwart's School of Witchcraft and Wizardry."

Booksellers and librarians nationwide say the Harry mania is due to the phenomenal success of British author J.K. Rowling's new fictional series of children's books that grabbed an unprecedented three top slots on the New York Times Bestseller's List with her latest release, The Prisoner of Azkaban.

Martha Cole coordinates the children's collection for her local library. Says Cole, "We can't keep them on the shelf; everybody wants to read them!"

Not exactly everyone. While eight-million copies of the Harry Potter books have already sold, parents are beginning to question whether the subject matter is suitable for their youngsters to read for themselves or learn in the public school classrooms.

In Columbia, South Carolina, David Williamson and his wife, Tammy, say the stories about sorcery are just too dark for their nine year old to be forced to listen to in class, which teaches "the overall context of the occult -- witches and how Harry is being trained through this school he goes to to be a better wizard," says David Williamson.

The South Carolina parents quote a Scripture passage from which says, "There shall not be anyone found among you who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, one who uses divination, one who practices witchcraft, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who casts a spell, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For whoever does these things is detestable to the LORD...."

They know their stand may not be popular, and not all Christians object to the Harry Potter series. Regent University film critic Dr. Terry Lindvall says, "My personal reaction to the Harry Potter books is that they are delightful, they are rich, they're dense, there's a lot of wit, and yet there's a lot of reality in these fantasies."

But it's the kind of reality that concerns a growing number of parents like the Williamsons. They've asked their state board of education to review the Potter series for what they say is violent content in today's post-Columbine world.

Elizabeth Mounce is one of the group's leaders. "Our child came home; it was being read in his class. The concern we had with the books was the violent tones in here: There's evil, there's death, there's lack of respect for human life, and there's the occult," she says.

For example, the concerned parents say consider this passage from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone: "...Harry could see (Quirrell's palms) looked burned, raw, red, and shiny. Then kill him, fool, and be done! screeched Voldemort. Quirrell raised his hand to perform a deadly curse!"

Stephen Mounce says that he believes using the books as a teaching tool in public schools breaks the law because it violates the separation of church and state. "The witchcraft, the occult, satanism, all the dark side that we see in these books -- the part about it that disturbs us the most is we believe it's religious. The U.S. Supreme Court has said it's religion."

And even this month's edition of the School Library Journal, which praises the Potter books, concurs with the high court opinion. In an article called "Witchcraft 101," a senior librarian writes, "Witchcraft or Wicca is a small but growing religion."

And these parents say that's what they're worried about.

"It's better to be pro-active rather than re-active. I don't want to go pulling a white sheet on my kid, screaming and crying on national TV, and saying, 'Why didn't somebody do something?,'" says Stephen Mounce.

The parents are scheduled to appear before the South Carolina State Board of Education again in November.

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