US parents want 'evil' Harry Potter banned

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YOU ONLY have to open the latest Harry Potter book to see the naked evil that waits inside.

YOU ONLY have to open the latest Harry Potter book to see the naked evil that waits inside.

Beneath the title, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban , is a heraldic shield with a serpent and the motto "Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus". Sex, drugs, Satanism. All are lurking in those four words alone. And you haven't even started on the story yet.

It has taken too long - the three books by JK Rowling have colonised bestseller lists around the globe - but in America at least, vigilant parents have mobilised to cleanse their children's souls of Potter and his twisted tales of the occult.

Well, a few have. Groups of parents have lobbied education boards and schools to have the books banned from classrooms on the grounds that they are too dark and violent.

"The books have a ... tone of death, hate, lack of respect and sheer evil," Elizabeth Mounce of Columbia, South Carolina, told a school board hearing. The board is to review the titles and decide whether to remove them from schools across the state.

At least one board member, Clarence Dickert, was seemingly sympathetic to reservations by those calling themselves "concerned Christian parents". He said afterwards: "Censorship is an ugly word but it is not as ugly as what I've heard this morning".

In Simi school district, near Los Angeles, a committee has been set up to scour the books for inappropriate influences. "It's a horrible book," Teresa Schmidt said of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone . "It talked about death and killing. It talks about drinking animal blood ... ".

For now, though, Harry is persona thoroughly grata with most students and teachers. Rowling is on a US signing tour and the first three Potter instalments occupy places one, two and three on The Wall Street Journal bestseller list.