by Holly Meyer edited by O Society September 3, 2019
The students at St. Edward Catholic School in Nashville can no longer check out the popular Harry Potter book series from their school’s library.
The seven-book series depicting the magical adventures of a young wizard and his friends was removed from the library because of their content, the Rev. Dan Reehil, a pastor at the Roman Catholic parish school, wrote in an email.
“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,” the email states.
Reehil goes on to say in the email that he consulted several exorcists in the U.S. and Rome who recommended removing the books.
The pastor was out of the office until Wednesday, but Rebecca Hammel, the superintendent of schools for the Catholic Diocese of Nashville, confirmed Reehil sent an email about removing the books following an inquiry from a parent. He also notified faculty, she said.
The core books, published between 1997 and 2007, were written by J.K. Rowling and spurred a successful movie franchise and a huge following worldwide. Rowling has created additional books and movies within the Harry Potter universe.
The books are considered controversial in some circles, including religious ones.
The Catholic Church does not have an official position on the Harry Potter books, Hammel said. In this situation, the school’s pastor does have the final say, she said.
“Each pastor has canonical authority to make such decisions for his parish school,” Hammel said. “He’s well within his authority to act in that manner.”
Hammel said she does think the Harry Potter books are still on the shelves in other school libraries throughout the diocese. In fact, they were in St. Edward’s old school library, which was used through the end of the 2018-2019 school year, she said.
But St. Edward, a pre-K through 8th grade Catholic school in South Nashville, just opened a new library in time for the 2019-2020 academic year. The Harry Potter books were removed from the new one, Hammel said.
She said she did not know what, if anything changed over the summer to prompt their removal. Nor was she aware of any other books being pulled for similar reasons.
“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,” Hammel said.
Overall, she said the Catholic Church sees parents as their children’s primary teachers.
“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,” Hammel said.
“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.”
The goal is to promote engaging, quality literature and an enjoyment of reading in hopes of building students’ skills and knowledge, she said.