Since it’s Banned Books Week, I’d like to take a break from the usual discussion to share with you some of the many challenges, bannings, and burnings of the Harry Potter books. Before we get to that, though, this month’s featured post is about how Shaina @ Shaina Reads almost didn’t read the series. Check it out to find out why and then add your own Harry Potter related posts to the link-up for your chance to be featured in next month’s discussion post.
- Douglas County, Colorado; Moorpark, California; and Buffalo, New York – Formal complaints against Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone were filed by parents in the school districts. In 2000, another parent in Moorpark, CA stated, “It was a horrible book…It talked about death and killing. It talks about drinking animal blood. That is witchcraft, and as a religion it doesn’t belong in school.”
- South Carolina – Parents requested Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone be banned from all South Carolina schools, stating it had “a serious tone of death, hate, lack of respect, and sheer evil,” and it was “trying to disguise things as fun and easy that are really evil.”
- Simi Valley, California – A parent stated that Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was “violent, antifamily, had a religious theme, and lacked educational value.”
- Saginaw, Michigan – Bruckner Elementary School became the first school in the United States to remove Harry Potter from the classroom. A parent complained, “the books are based on sorcery, which is an abomination to the Lord…I read a couple of chapters and felt like God didn’t want me reading it.” The school’s principal decided to ban the books from being read in class.
- Zeeland, Michigan – School Superintendent Gary L. Feenstra directed school librarians to remove Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone from the shelves. Later, he decided not to ban the book but restricted it by requiring students to have parental permission to check it out.
- Bend, Oregon – Parents asked school officials to ban the series from the district’s schools, stating the books referred to witchcraft and divination and would lead children to hatred and rebellion. The school superintendent rejected the request and stated the parents couldn’t determine the reading materials for all of the students.
- Band-La Pine, Oregon – Parents requested that the school board ban the series, stating it “threatened the fundamental morality of students.” The school board voted to keep the books.
- Cedar Rapids, Iowa – Parents asked that the books be removed from school libraries because of its “romantic characterization of witches, warlocks, wizards, goblins, and sorcerers.” and, “These things by their very nature erode the morality of our children, and therefore ultimately our society.”
- Salamanca, New York – The school board voted to keep the series in the elementary school libraries after parents complained about the dark themes in the books.
- Whittier, California – A petition signed by 53 parents said the series “exposes our young children’s minds to black magic and…horrible experiences that our children don’t need to hear or read about.” The review committee stated, “if books were to be banned from schools due to violence depicted, then stories such as Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood, and the Three Little Pigs would need to be added to the list.”
- Jacksonville, Florida – The Public Library received complaints and was threatened with a lawsuit after passing out “Hogwarts’ Certificates of Accomplishment” to children who read all the books in the series at that time. One parent stated, “We don’t want our children to be exposed to witchcraft. If they are going to pass out witchcraft certificates, they should promote the Bible and pass out certificates of righteousness.”
- Pace, Florida – A resident requested that the series be removed from the school libraries on the grounds of glorifying witchcraft and the occult and opposing Biblical teachings. He stated, “I know a lot of parents and teachers love it because the kids are excited about reading. But there’s excitement in drugs, there’s excitement in fornication, there’s excitement in crime, but that doesn’t mean they’re good for a person.”
- Santa Fe, Texas – School principles voted to require written permission from parents before students were allowed to check out any of the books in the series.
- Arab, Alabama – A parent requested the Board of Education remove the series from school libraries and stated she was speaking on behalf of other Christians. She also stated that J. K. Rowling was a member of the occult, and the books encourage children to practice witchcraft. “It was a mistake years ago to take prayer out of the schools because it let Satan in. We need to put God back in the schools and throw the Harry Potter books out.” The school board voted to keep the books in the schools.
- Rural, Pennsylvania – A burning of the Harry Potter books was conducted by a church.
- Chester County, Pennsylvania – A former substitute teacher registered a formal complaint and stated, “Harry Potter teaches you it’s OK to get back at people.”
- Oskaloosa, Kansas – The Public Library canceled a Summer storytelling event after residents became concerned about their children being taught witchcraft.
- Alamogordo, New Mexico – a church burned copies of the books.
- Cedarville, Arkansas – Angie Haney filed a formal complaint with the Cedarville School District in June of 2002. In her complaint, she stated the books were objectionable because they teach children “parents/teachers/rules are stupid or are something to be ignored. That magic will solve your problems. That there are good witches and good magic.” The books were restricted and could only be checked out by students with parental permission. The district court later overturned the school board’s decision, noting that the school board couldn’t restrict students’ right to read a book on the grounds of disagreeing with its contents.
- Lewiston, Maine – A ceremonial shredding of copies of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets was conducted the night before the film adaptation was released. The group had already done a book shredding in 2001 before the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was released. The group originally wanted to burn the books, but city officials refused to grant the necessary burning permit.
2005 – 2007
- Gwinnett County, Georgia – A parent claimed the novels were an evil attempt to “indoctrinate children in pagan religion” and should be removed from the schools. Despite not having read the books, she also stated the books were full of “evil themes, witchcraft, demonic activity, murder, evil blood sacrifice, spells.” and, “I don’t agree with what’s in them. I don’t have to read an entire pornographic magazine to know it’s obscene.” She told the school board that she wanted “to protect children from evil, not fill their minds with it. The ‘Harry Potter’ books teach children and adults that witchcraft is OK for children.” She also suggested the books be replaced by C. S. Lewis’s “Chronicles of Narnia” or Tim LaHaye’s “Left Behind: The Kids” series. She appealed to the Georgia state Board of Education after the school board rejected her request. After the Board of Education upheld the school board’s decision, she took the case to a state court, which also upheld the decision. She then threatened to take the case to federal court.