Politics Religion Science fiction/fantasy

Wingnuts against Harry Potter–again

It seems to be the time of the year for this sort of thing.

Yes, I realize that the Harry Potter novels have come under attack from various fundamentalist Christians, who view them as somehow indoctrinating children into witchcraft, Wicca, demon worship, or whatever. I also realize that I may be a bit behind the times on this story. But, with Halloween coming up and all, I thought I’d mention it anyway, because this time one such parent, Laura Mallory, has taken her beef with Harry Potter all the way to her state Board of Education in Georgia, after having been slapped down before in her fight to have all Harry Potter books removed from the school libraries in her home county of Gwinnett County, Georgia:

ATLANTA — The Harry Potter books about children who attend a school of wizardry encourage young people to practice witchcraft, a Gwinnett County mother of four told a state hearing officer Tuesday.

But a lawyer representing the Gwinnett Board of Education said the series of best-sellers should not be removed from the school system’s libraries because the books foster a love of reading among students.

Laura Mallory of Loganville, whose children attend J.C. Magill Elementary School, is seeking to have the books by J.K. Rowling banned from school shelves.

She first brought her case before the Gwinnett board, which ruled unanimously in May that the books could stay.

Mallory then appealed to the state Board of Education. The officer who presided over Tuesday’s hearing will make a recommendation to the board, which is expected to issue its decision in December.

Presenting her arguments first on Tuesday, Mallory cited studies showing that some children who have read Harry Potter books or seen movie adaptations have become interested in witchcraft to the point of attempting to cast spells. She said an organization called The Pagan Federation has attributed an increase in interest in the group among young people to publication of the books.

“Witchcraft is being mainstreamed to our children today,” she said. “My children are the most precious thing in the world to me. I surely do not want them to be indoctrinated into a religion whose practices are evil.”

Mallory also referred to research by the American Academy of Pediatrics that found young children cannot readily distinguish fantasy from reality and try to imitate what they’ve read.

Oh, yeah. So that evil Harry Potter is an insidiously clever ploy to indoctrinate generations of children into taking up witchcraft. How could I have missed this? Perhaps it’s just that I’m not as ingenious as Mrs. Mallory, who further justifies her wanting to impose her religious beliefs (and not just in her own county but In fact, she wants to have the books removed statewide from all public school libraries statewide, as well) on what is supposed to be a secular school system thusly:

The mother of four said she was opposed to the messages of the books, which describe a young wizard’s adventures in a school of magic. She said she had done much of her research online, reading a variety of Christian message boards and Harry Potter fan sites.

“Their thinking has changed. They’re designed to think that witches and witchcraft and wizards and all this is just normal. And that it’s OK. And that it’s even good. I strongly disagree with that. I don’t think it’s OK, and I don’t think it’s good at all,” Mallory said.

And, trying clumsilly to invoke the separation of church and state:

Suburban Atlanta mother Laura Mallory has pleaded with a hearing officer for Georgia’s State Board of Education to remove the Harry Potter books by British author J.K. Rowling from school libraries statewide, calling the popular fiction series an attempt to indoctrinate children in the Wicca religion. In making her point, Mallory notes that teachers do not assign “other religious books,” such as the Bible, as student reading.

Yep, Harry Potter. Right up there with the Bible and the Koran, right? And finally:

Referring to the recent rash of deadly assaults at schools, Mallory said books that promote evil — as she claims the Potter ones do — help foster the kind of culture where school shootings happen. That would not happen if students instead read the Bible, she said.

Actually, there are some pretty nasty bits in the Bible, particularly in the Old Testament, far nastier than anything that happens in the Harry Potter books. As for the Harry Potter books “promoting” evil, Mrs. Mallory seems to think that the protagonist in these books is Valdemort, not Harry Potter and his friends fighting Valdemort’s evil. Of course, it’s no surprise that Mrs. Mallory hasn’t bothered to read even parts of books that she wants to remove from every school library in the state of Georgia. Her reason for her failure to read them would be hilarious if it weren’t so pathetic:

She admitted that she has not read the book series partially because “they’re really very long and I have four kids.”

“I’ve put a lot of work into what I’ve studied and read. I think it would be hypocritical for me to read all the books, honestly. I don’t agree with what’s in them. I don’t have to read an entire pornographic magazine to know it’s obscene,” Mallory said.

True, but I would counter that you would have to see at least a dirty picture or two to recognize pornography when you see it. As for her “not having the time,” I’d ask her how much time she’s spent in her campaign to ban these books (which has been going on for well over a year now), none of which she’s bothered to read. For one thing, if she had bothered to read them, she would have noticed that the kids at Hogwarts celebrate Christmas and Valentine’s Day in a big way.

This is clearly a case where, to me at least, it appears that 10-year-olds have a far better ability to differentiate fantasy from reality than Mrs. Mallory:

Jessica Grimes, a 10-year-old student at Duncan Creek Elementary School, faxed a letter to the school system in support of the books series.

“The books never at any time turned me into a wizard or witch,” Grimes said. “I go to church every Sunday, go to Sunday school and never at any time did I think the books are true.”

And, of course, you can bet that, if meddling idiots like Mrs. Mallory get their way, it won’t stop with Harry Potter:

But Victoria Sweeny, the Gwinnett school board’s lawyer, said the Potter books are clearly “fantasy fiction” and are kept in the fiction section of school libraries.

She said the books, some of which run longer than 700 pages, provide reading material rich in vocabulary with such wholesome themes as the triumph of good over evil and the power of a mother’s love.

Sweeny suggested that to ban Harry Potter from school media centers could lead to the removal of such classics as some of William Shakespeare’s plays, “The Wizard of Oz,” “Alice in Wonderland” and the popular “Lord of the Rings” and “Chronicles of Narnia” series.

“When you start removing books and access to ideas, you’d pretty soon have no use for a media center,” she said.

Sure you will. You can stock it with nothing but the Bible and religious books and movies.

Actually, Mrs. Mallory doesn’t appear to object too much to the Narnia series, given its strong Christian themes. After all, it was one of the “alternatives” to Harry Potter that she suggested in her initial complaint. Apparently she isn’t as concerned as some fundamentalists who view Narnia as “paganism lite” and the portrayal of the Christ figure as a talking animal (a lion) as heretical. In any case, I’d be rather surprised if the school library doesn’t already have the Narnia books on its shelves–right in the same section as the Harry Potter books.

Naturally, I’m not surprised that Mrs. Mallory would also suggest one other replacement:

On her complaint form, she suggested they be replaced by C.S. Lewis’s “Chronicles of Narnia” series or Tim LaHaye’s “Left Behind: the Kids” series.

Ugh. I’d take Harry Potter any day over anything from the awful Left Behind series. Apparently Mrs. Mallory’s concern about religious indoctrination doesn’t extend away from her own beliefs. She’s blithely unconcerned about the disconnect between her wanting Harry Potter banned from school libraries because she views it as “promoting someone else’s religion” and her wanting to promote her own Christian views in school libraries by having them stock the odious Left Behind books. Apparently she has no concern about children whose parents may not share LaHaye’s warped, violent, apocalyptic, and “rapture-ready” take on Christianity. When I was in a Costco several months ago, I saw a copy of Glorious Appearing: The End of Days (I’m pretty sure that was the one; there are so many), the “last” book in the series (well, not quite, LaHaye, ever the entrepreneur, has now published several prequels). Curious about how it would portray the Second Coming of Jesus, I flipped to the appropriate chapter. I was shocked at the violence and mass death that was described in loving detail, nay, reveled in by the author! Jesus destroys whole armies with His power, killing thousands, if not millions, in the process! He even kills the horses the armies rode on when they assailed Him. And His followers, now immune from harm, slaughter unbelievers with gusto. Blood runs in rivers. And then it gets worse, although I didn’t have time to get to this part. As one disappointed devout Christian reviewer on Amazon describes it:

Jesus kidnaps every remaining human being on the planet and brings him or her to Jerusalem for judgment. They are judged, not for their sins, but for each person’s personal religious choice. The ground opens up and the followers of “aberrant” religions fall, screaming, into an eternal Lake of Fire. The earth closes over them. (The Jews, Hindus, Muslims, and Buddhists, and I dare say the Unitarians, and possibly even the Quakers, Catholics and Greek Orthodox are all consigned to the flames.)

The remaining survivors, called “believers” (allegedly Fundamentalist Christians and Messianic Jews) cheer Jesus on and call his actions “righteous”. They now enjoy their Messianic Era eating free food; residing in a freshly scrubbed Jersualem; and praising Jesus.

So, in this book “Jesus” is portrayed as doing some pretty awful things, sometimes to some very decent people (and horses). And the “believers” are portrayed as beings without compassion, remorse, or love. They don’t even care about each other.

And another review:

The problems start showing up when the main characters (all ten of them) start going on about how Jesus is kind, loving, caring, how he’s here to save the world, save sinners, etc. But when Jesus actually shows up, he goes completely against everything that is said about him.

How so? Well, he loves butchering millions of non-believers by making them explode, ripping out eyes, organs, etc. At one point the book describes how the blood of millions of dead people congeals together to form a swamp (I really wish I was making that up!). Does that sound like the loving, caring Jesus that the majority of the Christians know and love?

And what is absolutely awful and unforgivable is that “Jesus” uses bible quotes as an excuse for his unforgivable actions of horror and terror. One part of the book basically goes like this:

(Jesus goes across a battlefield)

Jesus: And he who walks in love knows God. He who is love has been born of God

(As he talks, millions of people scream and die, blowing up from the inside and dying horrific deaths that only a sadist would do)

Jesus: He who knows love, knows my father. If you know love, you know me

(Millions more die. Blood gushes everywhere.)

Wow. Prince of Peace indeed.


I’d be far more worried about children reading this tripe than anything J. K. Rowling has ever written. Even so, I wouldn’t seek to keep others from having access to it in school libraries–unlike Mrs. Mallory.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

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