Pro-Potter Protesters Picket as Minister Destroys Book

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The release of the new film Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets has again sparked protests from those who claim that the writing of best-selling author J.K. Rowling promotes witchcraft and pagan religion. The movie adaptation of Rowling's second title in the series opened nationwide on November 15 and grossed an estimated $87.7 million in its first three days.

Reverend Douglas Taylor decries the Harry Potter series.

However, at the Ramada Inn in Lewiston, Maine, on November 14, the eve of the release of the new film, the Reverend Douglas Taylor of Lewiston's Jesus Party Church, a Pentecostal congregation, cheerfully took a pair of scissors and cut up a copy of Chamber of Secrets for the benefit of his supporters and the assembled media.

Taylor told reporters that he wanted to burn the Potter books in protest, as he did last year at the release of the film Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, but could not convince the city of Lewiston to issue him the necessary permit, as reported by the Associated Press. "I wanted to burn the books because the Bible gives me the authority to burn magic books," Taylor said, as reported by the Lewiston Sun Journal.

"It's no secret that I enjoy what I'm doing right now," Taylor was quoted as saying as he tore apart the best-selling book by J.K. Rowling. "Hallelujah," replied one of his supporters. Taylor has decried the Potter series and movies as fonts of witchcraft and pagan religion. He argues that bringing the books inside schools violates the division between church and state. This division, he claims, prohibits him from bringing a Bible into a school.

Loyal Opposition --
Booksellers Eric Robbins (plaid vest) and Rita Moran (center right) hold signs protesting censorship.
Two Harry Potter fans.

Taylor's stance did not go unopposed. Eric Robbins and Rita Moran, co-owners of eight-year-old Apple Valley Books in nearby Winthrop, Maine, participated in a counterprotest of 30 people. Robbins and Moran spoke to BTW about the demonstration: "He [Rev. Taylor] states that witchcraft is a religion and therefore shouldn't be in schools. I feel that the books are fiction. If we applied his standard to most of the fiction in school libraries, they advocate religion -- usually Christianity. I'm not familiar with his church, and I don't think he is involved politically. He uses this [Potter protest] as a way to get publicity. We felt that the press couldn't present a balanced story about his group if there was no one around who was against his views."

Local bookseller Rita Moran speaks to media.

Moran said that, despite Taylor's position, "Not everyone agrees that you need to destroy books just because you disagree with what they say." This sentiment was echoed on the signs held up by the counterdemonstrators outside of the Ramada, some of which read "Freedom of Fiction" and "Who's Next?"

According to Robbins, "Taylor feels that the books are evil and a very bad influence on children, but he was careful to say this year that he was not entitled to destroy anyone else's copy." Taylor told the press that his actions were appropriate: "You can burn literature. It's not censorship.… If this nation goes to hell, it deserves to go to hell." -- Nomi Schwartz