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Banning books only leads to fear and closed minds

Vanesa Brashier / Your Houston News
The controversial and "occultic" bookshelves at the Austin Memorial Library in Cleveland, Texas.
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OKLAHOMA CITY – While attending Paula Sophia’s campaign watch party at the District House coffee house on Tuesday night, James Nimmo, Scott Hamilton and I were idly talking while trying to identify the famous authors and others featured in paintings on the café’s walls.

There was James Joyce and Oscar Wilde and a few others whose names escape me now.

And then there was a serious-looking red-haired guy. All three of us wracked our brains trying to figure out who it was.

Scott went over and checked on the name and smiled as James tried to guess.

“It starts with a ‘D’?” he asked.

Yes, a ‘D.’

“And he’s always getting banned?” James added, ever so close to correctly guessing the author’s identity.

“Ah, D.H. Lawrence,” I finally said.

It was D.H. Lawrence, of course. The controversial English novelist, poet and playwright, probably best known for The Rainbow (all copies were subject to a trial, seized and subsequently burned in 1915) and Lady Chatterley’s Lover, which was banned in many countries around the world for many years after publication in 1928. Lawrence’s explicit sex scenes caused a scandal in polite society.

And just as it was then, there are plenty of puritanical prudes and moralistic scolds in our society, seeking to censor and ban anything and everything they disagree with.

Down in Cleveland, Texas, not far from Houston, a meddling minister who hates Harry Potter, the Twilight vampire series and anything having to do with occult themes aimed at young readers is seeking to have those books “removed from the shelves of the teen section at Austin Memorial Library,” reports

Pastor Phillip Missick, with King of Saints Tabernacle, told reporters that 75 occult books are available for young readers to check out.

“On the top shelf, there is a demonic stuffed doll and a witch’s hat, Missick said, referring to a figured of the Harry Potter elf character Dobby, and a ‘sorting hat’ from the same series by J.K. Rowling.

How can anyone hate Dobby? He was quite a brave and noble creature, if this know-it-all had bothered to even read the Harry Potter books ... books that single-handedly got kids reading again, books that are hundreds of pages long!

Added Missick: “I am not saying that the library shouldn’t have information on the occult since it is part of our history, but there is an overwhelming amount and the books appear to be targeting teens.”

Missick demands that the “occultic and demonic room be shut down” and that the accused books be “purged” (insert the word ‘burn’ here).

He reminds me of Mrs. Farmer, the uptight teacher in the film Donnie Darko who addresses the PTA and tries to get Graham Greene’s 1954 short story The Destructors banned from the school.

In a shrill voice, Mrs. Farmer says, “The PTA is here to acknowledge that pornography is being taught in our curriculum!”

Mrs. Farmer, of course, fails to see the irony in her efforts to "destroy" The Destructors, ridding the school of literature that doesn't conform to her paradigm.

So, back to Pastor Missick. Is he right in seeking to ban Harry Potter, Twilight and other books that contain occult themes? Absolutely not! This is absurd. We should be encouraging children to read, not telling them to fear literature.

As one librarian said in the comment section of the story: “Censorship creates limited world views and erodes critical thinking.” Censorship also leads to fear, hate and division. 

And don’t forget – “Banned Books Week” is coming up in just one month – September 21-27, 2014. Check out this list of the Top 100 banned/challenged books between the years 2000 and 2009. And yes, the incredibly popular Harry Potter series (I read each book to my wife – out loud, even) is number one!

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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