Apparently it's 1999 again

By Rachel Yang
September 02, 2019 at 05:54 PM EDT
Scholastic; Bloomsbury

A Catholic school in Tennessee has banned students from checking out the Harry Potter books because the pastor felt the series contained “actual curses and spells,” and that reading them risked “conjuring evil spirits.”

Rev. Dan Reehil, a pastor at the St. Edward Catholic School in Nashville, sent an email explaining his decision, according to the Tennessean.

“These books present magic as both good and evil, which is not true, but in fact a clever deception,” he wrote. “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 went on to write in the email that he consulted several exorcists in the U.S. and Rome who recommended the books’ removal, the Tennessean reported.

Rebecca Hammel, the superintendent of schools for the Catholic Diocese of Nashville, confirmed to the paper that Reehil sent the email and made his decision after receiving an inquiry from a parent. Hammel also said he was within his rights to ban the books.

“Each pastor has canonical authority to make such decisions for his parish school,” Hammel told the Tennessean. “He’s well within his authority to act in that manner.”

Hammel added that she didn’t see the removal of books as censorship. “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,” she said.

Representatives for the Catholic Diocese of Nashville school district did not immediately respond to EW’s request for comment.

Since the first Harry Potter novel was published in 1997, the series has been no stranger to controversy. Written by J.K. Rowling, the books depict the titular hero discovering he is a wizard and going off on adventures to save the wizarding world from the evil Lord Voldemort.

The seven-part series has been banned in numerous schools across the country due to accusations that they promote witchcraft and go against traditional Christian beliefs.

In 1999, when it was released in the U.S., Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was the most frequently challenged book of the year, according to the American Library Association. The series also made the top 100 most challenged books from 1990 to 1999, and topped the list for 2000 to 2009.

Rowling has been vocal in the past that her books are upstanding and are not trying to lead kids into Satanism.

“A very famous writer once said, ‘A book is like a mirror. If a fool looks in, you can’t expect a genius to look out,’” Rowling has said. “People tend to find in books what they want to find. And I think my books are very moral.”

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