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Back to May Ed Reporter
Education Reporter
NUMBER 196 THE NEWSPAPER OF EDUCATION RIGHTS MAY 2002

All About Harry PotterWitch
Marketing witchcraft to school children

The media frenzy has faded and the debut film has disappeared from first-run theater screens, but Harry Potter is alive and well in America's public schools. The fallout from this successful occult venture continues, with occult themes becoming more commonplace in books, films, TV programs, and promotional toys and paraphernalia.

Harry Potter Witchcraft Repackaged A new documentary by Jeremiah Films called Harry Potter: Witchcraft Repackaged (www.jeremiahfilms.com) contends that more and more young Potter fans are becoming involved in witchcraft, and that Scholastic Inc., the world's largest publisher of children's books, is producing more and more materials featuring graphic horror, the occult, the supernatural, and spiritism.

This video points out that Scholastic "eagerly secured the publishing rights to Harry Potter, which far surpassed its previous best seller, the occult adventure series Goosebumps." Author Robert S. McGee, one of the film's narrators, states that Scholastic "used its good name and unrivaled position in the world of education [its products reach 32 million American school children each year] to market Harry Potter to teachers, recommending that they read the books aloud in class."

"Scholastic's 35 school-based magazines geared to K-12 students tirelessly market the books," McGee says, "as does its award-winning web-site, which integrates the Potter materials into classroom activities. The religion of witchcraft is given honorable status in the nation's classrooms, while Bible-based reading is banned."


Parents Protest 
That Harry Potter promotes the religion of witchcraft, or wicca, during the school day has been the chief complaint of concerned parents ever since the books invaded American classrooms four years ago. As the Potter craze caught fire and spread throughout the nation, parents in South Carolina, New York, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, California, Georgia and Nebraska protested to school district administrators and to local and state school boards. They asserted that wicca (witchcraft) is a religion recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court and the U.S. military. Since Harry Potter promotes witchcraft and the occult, they argued, the books do not belong in the classroom.

Parents in South Carolina made national news when they presented evidence to their state school board that the Potter books "promote witchcraft" and contain "violence" and "lack of respect" for authority. The intent of these parents was to curtail the schools' heavy promotion of the books and to stop teachers from reading them in class. "At no time did we ask the state board to remove the books from school libraries," explains Elizabeth Mounce, whose son's teacher was reading Harry Potter in class. "We simply asked that they not be read aloud to students during class time, but we could not get even that much accomplished."

Mrs. Mounce ultimately pulled her son out of public school and began home-schooling him, while other parents opted their children out of the reading sessions.


Pundits Weigh In 
Some Christian parents and pundits defend Potter's magic as being "of an entirely different nature from real-world witchcraft," but others object to the books' positive portrayal of witchcraft. "Desensitization to witchcraft is already happening," wrote Focus on the Family's Lindy Beam in an online review of the Harry Potter series last year. "In an abcNEWS.com interview," Beam noted, "practicing Wiccan [witch] Phyllis Curott said, 'Sure, you are seeing witches in Harry Potter do things they don't do in real life. But it is positive. They are friendly. They are good. The book[s] might change the way people feel about us.'"

According to Focus on the Family's Teachers Focus (Feb. 2000), other dangers in the Potter novels are the lack of moral authority and the fact that author J.K. Rowling's stories are not based on Judeo-Christian ethics. "When we read Rowling's series, we find that she effectively divorces power from authority," the article stated. "There is no sovereign person or principle governing the use of power. Magical power is gained through inheritance and learning. It is not granted by a Higher Authority, because there is no Higher Authority - at least none higher than Harry's mentor, Albus Dumbledore, and the evil Lord Voldemort."

Some critics decry the Potter books for promoting moral relativism. Harry frequently breaks the Hogwart's school rules, for example, but never suffers the consequences of his actions. "The child becomes a law unto himself," observed one reviewer, who described her visit to an occult bookstore where Harry Potter was prominently featured in the children's section, but C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia and J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings were conspicuously absent. "The occultists accept Harry," she noted. "We could equate [ Potter] to a sort of marketing plan developed to sell the occult."

World magazine reported (10-30-99) that "The magical elements [in Potter] throw a relativistic curve ball. The rules of the wizard world are rarely solid and steadfast, and nothing is as it appears."

"The Harry Potter craze is bound to generate tremendous confusion between good and evil, especially in the already-relativized ambience of our days," agrees traditional Catholic writer Marian T. Horvat. "Children not only need absolutes, but seek them."

Horvat and others warn that the sense of the demonic is trivialized in Potter. "Magic is presented as a funny thing, a game. Spells are 'cool.'" writes Horvat. "What I fear the young reader of Harry Potter novels will not realize is that such curses invoke evil - and the origin of all evil is demonic."


Capitalizing on Witchcraft 
During the initial rush of Pottermania, author J.K. Rowling's book-signing events drew more than 1,000 people, causing long lines and near-riots at U.S. bookstores. Focus on the Family's Citizen magazine reported (Feb. 2000) that Scholastic Inc. warned stores in advance of "the need to properly prepare" for crowds. Citizen observed that Scholastic "couldn't be happier about the Rowling-inspired craze."

According to Jeremiah Films, Scholastic is continuing to ride the wave of Pottermania. In addition to the four Harry Potter novels released so far, students and teachers can find Conversations with J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter movie books, journals and stationery, coloring and activity books, pop-up books, and bookmarks, on Scholastic's website.

The website also offers Goosebumps, and an occult series called T•Witches about fictional identical twins — "the twin daughters of two very powerful witches" — who were separated at birth.


 
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