Be careful what you read in the library. That children’s book might be the first step toward selling your soul to Satan.
At least, that is what Antonio Rivera thinks. At a recent Board of Education meeting, Rivera, a resident of Fair Haven, requested that the popular “Harry Potter” series be removed from city schools.
“Why in the world [would] we want to teach our children witchcraft and sorcery?” Rivera asked the board.
Rivera, who does not have any children, said he represented several reformed Protestant churches in the Fair Haven community, but would not name them.
Written by the Scottish author J.K. Rowling, the “Harry Potter” series has drawn a great deal of criticism from some religious activists who have accused it of glorifying Satan and violating Christian morality through the young wizards’ use of spells and incantations.
While books of the wildly popular series currently occupy four of the top 10 spots on The New York Times’ bestseller list for children’s paperbacks, the series as a whole also received the number-one spot on the American Library Association’s “Most Frequently Challenged Books of 2001,” followed by John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men” and Robert Cormier’s “The Chocolate War.”
The school district has steadfastly defended the fantasy series, which is not currently included in any curriculum in New Haven schools.
“It has been a phenomenal success in getting kids excited about reading,” said Catherine Sullivan-DeCarlo, director of communications for New Haven Public Schools.
“We’re not doing anything different,” she said, adding that this was the only request the school system had received to remove the books.
Board of Education President Carlos Torre said at the meeting that there is a difference between a book about a sorcerer and a book that teaches sorcery. Nevertheless, he did volunteer to meet with concerned citizens if necessary.
“We take this very seriously,” he said.
Sullivan-DeCarlo said Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum Eleanor Osborne met with Rivera after the Board meeting.
Members of the library community spoke in favor of the books. Michael Morand ’87 DIV ’93, chairman of the Board of Directors of the New Haven Free Public Library, said it was important to avoid censorship in order to protect intellectual freedom.
“As an institution that stands solidly for a citizen’s right to information, we are always concerned when we hear about efforts to curb that access and promote censorship,” Morand said.
Morand said the books are very popular amongst children, citing a circulation of 500 in the Fair Haven community.