In the Harry Potter books, films, and Fantastic Beasts spin-offs, magic drives the plots. So, if you were to ask someone if magic is presented as good or bad in the Potterverse, the answer would be both. Or neither? Still, all good fantasy fiction needs conflict, which is apparently something bona fide religious exorcists don’t know.
On Tuesday, news broke that St. Edward Catholic School in Nashville had removed the seven core Harry Potter books from the school library as a direct result of pastor Rev. Dan Reehil consulting “several exorcists” about the hexes and spells contained within the book. Having déjà vu? Feel like you’ve been sucked into Hermione Granger’s time-turner from The Prisoner of Azkaban? Holy crap, it’s 1999 and I’m just about to graduate high school! Where is my beautiful wife and daughter? Why am I trapped in the past???
I’m asking because back in 1999 and 2000 various school libraries deemed the Harry Potter popularity boom as the work of Satan. Some of this extremism continued well into 2007, just as the “final” book — The Deathly Hallows — was published. The argument goes like this: because Harry Potter books have witches and wizards in them, children will start to believe in the occult and thus, turn against their God; whichever almighty that might be. Most rational people reject this — and point out that people of all faiths embrace the positive messages of the Potter stories. If you’re someone who thinks J.K. Rowling created an amoral universe with the Potter series, it’s very clear you haven’t read the books or seen the films. The heroic witches and wizards of the stories are just as staunchly moral as any Gandalf or Jesus from other crusty books you may have heard of.
And yet, here we are in 2019, and the Potter panic is back. Exactly what prompted Rev. Dan Reehil to suddenly be concerned about a very old debate is unclear, but it’s not crazy to think Voldemort or Grindelwald is behind it. According to People, Rebecca Hammel, the superintendent of schools for the Catholic Diocese of Nashville, told the Nashville Tennessean that “Each pastor has canonical authority to make such decisions for his parish school. He’s well within his authority to act in that manner.”
To be clear, not every school in Nashville school is banning books, and it’s not even clear if this specific school will continue to ban these books in the years to come. After all, if any of Dumbledore’s army has their way, those books will be back in the school library by the next decade.