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Catholic school bans Harry Potter

9-10-2019

Aria Meixel, Arts & Entertainment Editor

At St. Edward Catholic School in Nashville, Tennessee, the world-renowned Harry Potter series is being removed from library shelves by request of the school’s pastor, Rev. Dan Reehil after an inquiry from a student’s parent. 

“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,” Reehil claimed in an email to the teachers explaining his decision. Despite magic being used for good and evil forces in the books, Reehil says this is not true, and that magic can only be used for evil. 

Although the Catholic Church has no official stance on whether or not the Harry Potter series is evil, exorcists in the United States and Rome recommended this action to Reehil, just in case any students were to chance becoming possessed by reading these books, and since Reehil is the school’s pastor, he is well within his right to do this, despite pushback from the general public and the fact that the Harry Potter series began in 1997.

In an email clarifying this decision, Rebecca Hammel, the Diocese’s Superintendent of Schools, explains that while the books are no longer in the school’s library, students are still allowed to read them on their own and on school grounds. This decision also ties into the moving of the library from one part of the school to another, which involves getting rid of books that are not age appropriate for a K-8 school or books that are not being circulated often enough. 

Students’ parents at the school have tried to combat the books’ removal, but since St. Edward is a private school, they do not have much say in the matter, and there is not much that can be done legally. 

The Harry Potter series are some of the most challenged books in the 21st century, although lately many schools are focusing their efforts on removing books with LGBT themes from their libraries. Deborah Caldwell-Stone, the interim director of the American Library Association’s office for intellectual freedom says about book challenges that, “Parents and schools want to protect children from ideas that … might corrupt them, that might destroy their innocence. We understand that the parents want to guide their child and raise them in a particular way … When they try to use that as a reason to prevent access … for all readers, really with the assumption that everyone should share their values or their beliefs, that’s where we object.”

It’s surprising to hear that, even after twenty years of these books, the Harry Potter series is still so controversial. Even if the intentions behind this removal are good, is it a violation of the children’s rights to read whatever they want? Are Rev. Reehil’s fears that reading the spells spoken throughout the books will summon evil spirits valid? The only way to find out may be to try it out yourself.