“Religious debates over the Harry Potter series” denotes debates initiated by fundies of various stripes who struggle to distinguish fiction from reality, and who claim that the Harry Popper novels contain occult or Satanic subtexts. There are lots of these people, and we’ve covered a number already, from Richard Abanes, through Marshall Foster to Berit Kjos. Douglas Taylor of the Oneness Pentecostal Church (or Jesus Party Church – we have seen both, and the latter sounds much more fascinating) in Lewiston, Maine, is another. After being denied a city permit to burn books, the Rev. Taylor has held several annual gatherings at which he cuts the Potter books up with scissors. “It’s no secret I enjoy what I’m doing now,” said Taylor, and we don’t doubt that he does, but added that he would have preferred to burn the books – “the Bible gives me the authority to burn magic books,” said Taylor. He also added that the book-shredding wasn’t censorship (because he was destroying his own property); what really is censorship, he claimed, is the fact that Bible studies (by which he means proselytizing, of course) are not allowed in public schools; meanwhile, bringing the Harry Potter books inside schools apparently does violate the division between church and state, as Taylor sees it. His supportive wife Susan helpfully explained that “if you do not have the spirit of God in you, you have the spirit of the devil in you,” which is not a particularly healthy way of viewing the world.
To Taylor, an installment in the series like Chamber of Secrets is nothing other than an instructional manual for the dark arts that can ensnare children in a destructive obsession with the occult. Satan is the inspiration for the Potter series, Taylor says. Of course, it doesn’t take much testing to determine that the spells described doesn’t actually work, but Taylor’s is not the kind of mind crossed by the idea of testing its hypothesis against reality or checking whether the ideas it entertains are correct. “‘Harry Potter’ is repackaged witchcraft,” Taylor says, and “our ministry is not going to remain quiet.” His events have actually managed to draw some protests, too, a fact to which Taylor replies “Controversy! I love it, and I’m on the cutting edge of it. Amen! This is a beautiful opportunity that J.K. Rowling has provided for me. It’s so sad that so many ministers are missing this opportunity.”
Diagnosis: In fairness, he does seem to be mostly hungry for attention, but he certainly manages to come across as a notoriously unsavory fellow. Just stay out of arm’s reach, and you’ll probably be fine.