A woman who maintains that the Harry Potter books are an attempt to indoctrinate children into witchcraft is pressing her case for the second time to have them banned from school libraries.
Laura Mallory, a mother of four from the Atlanta suburb of Loganville, told a Georgia Board of Education officer on Tuesday that the books by British author JK Rowling, sought to indoctrinate children as Wiccans, or practitioners of religious witchcraft and that the books are harmful to children who are unable to differentiate between reality and fantasy.
The children, she said, try to imitate Harry Potter and cast spells on classmates.
"They're not educationally suitable and have been shown to be harmful to some kids," Mallory said. She argued that teachers do not assign other religious books like the Bible as student reading. It was Mallory's second public campaign against the popular fiction series, after trying to get her son's elementary school to ban the books in August 2005.
Victoria Sweeny, an attorney representing the Gwinnett County Board of Education in Atlanta's eastern suburbs, which had ruled against her in May, said that if schools were to remove all books containing reference to witches, they would have to ban mainstays like Macbeth and Cinderella.
"There's a mountain of evidence for keeping Harry Potter," she said, adding that the books don't support any particular religion but present instead universal themes of friendship and overcoming adversity.
Sweeny said parents, teachers and scholars have found them a good tool to stimulate children's imagination and encourage them to read. Referring to the recent rash of deadly assaults at schools, Mallory said books that promote evil - as she claims the Potter ones do - help foster the kind of culture where school shootings happen. That would not happen if students instead read the Bible, Mallory said.
The hearing officer presiding over the appeal will make a recommendation to the state board, which will then decide the case at its meeting in December. Mallory is appealing after the Gwinnett County school board ruled in favour of the books.
Wiccans consider themselves witches, pagans or neo-pagans, and say their religion is based on respect for the earth, nature and the cycle of the seasons.