St Edward Catholic School in Nashville, Tennessee has made a very unpopular decision to ban J.K. Rowling’s much-loved Harry Potter series after Reverend Dan Reehill, the school’s Pastor, decided the book posed a real “risk of conjuring evil spirits” when read by the children.
This is not the first time that Rowling’s Harry Potter series has been banned from schools because the books present witches, wizards, magic and other creatures. The books have been banned from all schools in the United Arab Emirates. In the United States of America, there have been calls to ban them from schools which have led to legal challenges which suggest that because the witchcraft is a ‘government recognised’ religion allowing Rowling’s books into school libraries violates the separation of church and states. In fact, the American Library Association, have suggested that Rowling’s Harry Potter series are now the most challenged books of the 21st century.
This most recent banning on Harry Potter in Nashville was triggered when the school opened a new library for the students, prompting the faculty to reassess the library’s catalogue. Rebecca Hammel, the superintendent of schools for the Catholic Diocese of Nashville, told The Tennessean, “I know that in the process they were going through and kind of weeding out some of the content in hopes of sprucing it up and improving the circulation.”
Reverend Reehill reportedly consulted with exorcists in the US and at the Vatican before making the decision to banish the seven-part Harry Potter book series from St Edward’s Library.
Reverend Dan Reehill explained his unpopular decision to outlaw the books in an email to the parents of the St Edward Catholic School’s students. He wrote, “These books present magic as both good and evil, which is not true, but in fact a clever deception. The curses and spells used in the books are actual curses and spells; which when read by a human being risk conjuring evil spirits into the presence of the person reading the text.”
Rebecca Hammel, explained that Reverend Reehill had every right to make such a decision, since the Catholic Church has no official stance on J.K. Rowling’s series. Hammel stated, “Each pastor has canonical authority to make such decisions for his parish school. He’s well within his authority to act in that manner.”
However, Hammel also added, “Should parents deem that this or any other media to be appropriate we would hope that they would just guide their sons and daughters to understand the content through the lens of our faith. We really don’t get into censorship in such selections other than making sure that what we put in our school libraries is age appropriate materials for our classrooms.”
In 1999, when the books were first beginning to be challenged Rowling denied that Harry Potter lead children into witchcraft in an interview with CNN. The author stated, “I absolutely did not start writing these books to encourage any child into witchcraft. I’m laughing slightly because to me, the idea is absurd. I have met thousands of children and not even one time has a child come up to me and said, ‘Ms Rowling, I’m so glad I’ve read these books because now I want to be a witch.’”