2019 Banned Books: Harry Potter Books Taken Off Nashville School Shelves

American Library Association will host Banned Books Week September 22-28, 2019

As public libraries across the country prepare for 2019 Banned Book Week (September 22-28), Harry Potter books have been taken off shelves at a Catholic school in Nashville over the risk of “conjuring evil spirits.”

Banned Books Week is an annual event sponsored by the American Library Association celebrating the freedom to read. Banned Books Week was launched in 1982 in response to a sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores and libraries.

Typically held during the last week of September, it highlights the value of free and open access to information. Banned Books Week brings together the entire book community — librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types — in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.

The Harry Potter book series has been banned by the Catholic Father over St. Edward School in Nashville. 

The Harry Potter ban in Nashville is a prime example of why ALA hosts Banned Books Week annually. In the Nashville case, Father Dan Reehil, a pastor at St. Edward School, made the decision this summer to remove the books from the library over concern of J.K. Rowlings popular series about wizard Harry Potter, according to NBC affiliate WSMV in Nashville.

"These books present magic as both good and evil, which is not true, but in fact a clever deception,” Reehil wrote in an email, according to a story in the Nashville Tennessean. “The curses and spells used in the books are actual curses and spells; which when read by a human being risk conjuring evil spirits into the presence of the person reading the text.”

The Tennessean reports that Reehil said he discussed the issue with exorcists both in Rome and the U.S. In an email to parents, the superintendent for Catholic schools in the Diocese of Nashville, said the Harry Potter books were never part of the curriculum, and students can still read them at the school if they bring copies from home. The books just won’t be available in the library.

The seven-book Harry Potter series has been controversial among some religious leaders since it was first published in 1997.

To highlight the dangers of censorship, ever April the American Library Association compiles a listing of frequently challenged books.

As compiled by the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF), here are the Top 11 Challenged Books of 2018, as  reported in the media and submitted by librarians and teachers from around the country:

1. George by Alex Gino Reasons

Reasons: Challenged and relocated because it was believed to encourage children to clear browser history and change their bodies using hormones, and for mentioning “dirty magazines,” describing male anatomy, “creating confusion,” and including a transgender character

2. A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo by Jill Twiss, illustrated by EG Keller 

Reasons: banned and challenged for including LGBTQIA+ content, and for political and religious viewpoints

3. Captain Underpants series written and illustrated by Dav Pilkey

Reasons: series was challenged because it was perceived as encouraging disruptive behavior, while Captain Underpants and the Sensational Saga of Sir Stinks-A-Lot was challenged for including a same-sex couple

4. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Reasons: banned and challenged because it was deemed “anti-cop,” and for profanity, drug use, and sexual references

5. Drama -written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier 

Reasons: banned and challenged for including LGBTQIA+ characters and themes

6. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Reasons: banned, challenged, and restricted for addressing teen suicide

7. This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki, illustrated by Jillian Tamaki

Reasons: banned and challenged for profanity, sexual references, and certain illustrations

8. Skippyjon Jones series written and illustrated by Judy Schachner

Reason: challenged for depicting stereotypes of Mexican culture

9. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Reasons: banned and challenged for sexual references, profanity, violence, gambling, and underage drinking, and for its religious viewpoint

10. This Day in June by Gayle E. Pitman, illustrated by Kristyna Litten

Reason: challenged and burned for including LGBTQIA+ content

11. Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan

Reason: challenged and burned for including LGBTQIA+ content