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Religious right groups take aim at popular `Harry Potter' books. (People & Events).

Wizard-in-training Harry Potter, the fictional star of a series of phenomenally popular children's books, has fended off evil warlocks, giant snakes and a three-headed dog, but he may have just gained his most powerful enemy -- the Religious Right.

The release last month of the first motion picture based on the Potter books, "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," set off a new round of Religious Right Potter-bashing. The books, far-right groups asserted, teach that witchcraft is fun and lure children into the occult.

Authored by British writer J.K. Rowling, the four Harry Potter books have become a modern publishing sensation, selling millions of copies around the world. Aimed at young readers but also popular with many adults, the books recount the adventures of Harry Potter, an orphan who learns that he is descended from a line of wizards.

The books deal mainly with Harry's adventures at Hogwarts, an elite private academy for would-be wizards where students learn magical arts from witches, warlocks and even an occasional werewolf. Throughout the books, Harry must fend off attacks from an evil arch-villain, Lord Voldemort, who murdered Harry's parents and wants to kill him as well. In each book, good triumphs over evil in the end.

Although fantasy beings like witches, giants and other fabulous creatures have populated children's literature since the Brothers Grimm, some Religious Right activists are sure that the Potter series is a tool to indoctrinate young children into the world of the occult.

In November, Lindy Beam, a "youth culture analyst" for Focus on the Family, penned a piece titled "What Shall We Do With Harry?" that asserted that the series' main problem is that it presents the occult in a positive light.

Beam scored the books for "desensitization to witchcraft" and because author Rowling "does not write from the basis of Judeo-Christian ethics." She urged readers to use young people's interest in the book as a stepping stone to fundamentalist evangelism.

The Southern Baptists have also made it clear that they are not wild about Harry. On Nov. 2, the Baptist Press news service ran an opinion column by Robert McGee, associate pastor for discipleship at First Baptist Church, Merritt Island, Fla., blasting the Potter series and criticizing some Christians for defending the books as merely works of fantasy.

Wrote McGee, "God has declared the very practices presented in Harry Potter an abomination (see Deuteronomy 18). When individuals use the power of witchcraft, they are using demonic power and opening themselves to demons. Unfortunately many Christians appear to believe that God's warnings about witchcraft are worthless, as they have concluded that witchcraft is just a bad use of imagination and nothing else."

McGee said witches recruit over the Internet and asserted that many teens do not hesitate to experiment with witchcraft. "This is a crucial victory for Satan and has put our children in great danger," he wrote.

McGee is so worked up about the Potter books that he is working with Jeremiah Films, a group that often produces fundamentalist-oriented videos, to promote an anti-Potter website, www.therealpotter. com. McGee also appears in Jeremiah Films' new anti-Potter video, "Harry Potter: Witchcraft Repackaged -- Making Evil Look Innocent."

Less than two weeks later, the Baptist Press blasted Potter again, this time in a column by Jennifer L. Zebel, director of children's ministries at Applewood Baptist Church, Wheat Ridge, Colo. Zebel asserted that Rowling is perhaps unknowingly doing the bidding of Satan by penning the Potter series.

"I cannot believe that any secular book, character or movie advocating witchcraft of any kind could be this wildly successful without Satan having an agenda for it," Zebel wrote, "The bottom line is that we know the right choice is to steer clear of these books and movies, but we don't want to make the sacrifice. Satan is a wonderful writer and movie producer."

Continued Zebel, "I grieve for the misguided effort of such a talented writer as J.K. Rowling. She may have no idea that her imaginative, creative mind is being used as a tool by Satan to casually draw an entire generation of Americans toward the seductive side of witchcraft."

Another anti-Potter activist, Richard Abanes, has been making the rounds in fundamentalist churches hawking his book Harry Potter and the Bible: The Menace Behind the Magic. "The books," Abanes told the Associated Press, "present astrology, numerology, mediumship, crystal gazing. Kids are enthralled with it, and kids like to copy."

TV preacher Pat Robertson has also climbed about the Potter-bashing bandwagon. Numerous anti-Potter articles are featured on the website of Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network (www.cbn.org). A piece by Jack M. Roper, who describes himself as an expert on "cults," asserts that the Potter series is designed to lure young people into witchcraft.
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Publication:Church & State
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 1, 2001
Words:792
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