"Local frets over Potter influence"
by Melanie Brubaker Mazur ("Herald", November 21, 2001)
Amid the hype of "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," the most successful movie release in history, a local church congregation is showing a video that claims the books and movie are an evil influence. Calvary Chapel will show "Harry Potter: Witchcraft Repackaged" at 7 p.m. today at Seventh Day Adventist Church, 1775 Florida Road.
"The books and movie make occult practices look very intriguing," said the Rev. Ernest Finklea of Calvary, who said he saw the film. "It could open the door for children to pursue witchcraft."
Kari Tillotson, a member of the congregation, agreed.
"This is how the devil works," she said. "He makes it seem really appealing."
Tillotson's son attends Escalante Middle School, where students have been listening to a Harry Potter books on tape. She said her son asked to be excused from the class.
"Why are people so excited about something the Bible calls evil?" she asked.
Some local Christians, however, don't see the character as a harbinger of evil. "Given the turmoil of these times, Harry Potter seems to be an awfully insignificant issue to be upset about," said the Rev. Bill Postler of First Presbyterian Church in Durango.
Postler said he is currently reading a Harry Potter book by British author J.K. Rowling because so many children in his congregation are talking about the books and movie.
"I'm reading it to know what the furor is about," he said, referring to children's interest as well as criticism from religious groups.
The book provides wholesome messages for children about friendship and bravery, said Beth White, a Bayfield mother of three and member of Christ the King Lutheran Church. She said her family read the book together.
"We really enjoyed it," she said. "I think my children understand that it is a movie and story."
White compared the books and movie to "Star Wars," "Cinderella" and other fantasies and fairy tales.
The video being shown at the church, produced by Jeremiah Films, focuses on the occult factors that are part of the movie and books, such as brooms and the pointed hats children wear in the movie, Finklea said.
The school activities around Harry Potter amount to state-sponsored religion, because witchcraft is considered a religion by the U.S. Supreme Court, Tillotson said.
"This is a religion they're pushing on my child," she said. "And I'm wondering why it's OK to push this particular religion."
While the Potter books might interest children in reading, Tillotson said there are many children's books with a better image to present.
"It's a temptation for us to cast spells to make life easier, to get rich quicker, to pass tests in school," she said. "But the easy way doesn't lead us to everlasting life."