School Board Removes Christian Classic from Library Shelves

The school board in Oregon’s Onionville School District has ordered librarians to pull The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe from its library shelves following a petition by parents concerned about the religious content of the children’s classic. Teachers have been told not to use the book in their curriculum pending a complete review of the author’s Christian background. Other religious titles may be pulled after a review of the library’s collection.Richard Harris, the district superintendent of instruction said that he fully supports the school board’s decision. “These are secular public schools, after all. Separation of church and state and all that.”

Atheist parent Sam Dawkins agreed. “Those Catholic schools in Canada had every right to pull The Golden Compass from their shelves. As atheist parents at a secular school, we have to protect our children from books by authors with hidden religious agendas. Take C. S. Lewis, for example. He dresses Christ up in cat costume with a big mane so that kids cozy right up to Him. Then they’re caught helpless in Jesus’ furry paws.”

Onionville resident and school board member Christopher Johnson is a self-professed Zen Buddhist who voted in favor of the ban. His choice was motivated by a concern for Lewis’ reputation as a Christian apologist. Although Johnson admitted that he hadn’t read the books, he said that “[The Chronicles of Narnia] are just thinly veiled Christian propaganda…there is nothing innocent about [Lewis’] agenda. This man’s sinister goals are to promote Christianity and denigrate atheism. To kids!”

Johnson added, “Also, there aren’t any Zen books in the library for them to remove, so I have nothing to lose.”

The controversy has spread beyond the classroom and into the movie theater. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was adapted into a hit movie a couple of years ago, and the sequel, Prince Caspian, will be released this spring.

Ellen Hitchens, President of the Atheist League, an American lobbying group for non-believers, is leading an effort to boycott the movie. “We encourage parents not to be lured in by the incredible special effects and the thrilling action. We expect that our national email and news campaign will reach parents who haven’t heard of this multimillion dollar epic and keep them from exposing their unsuspecting children to the religious elements hidden under the Christian-approved sorcery and cute talking animals.”

In Onionville, atheist parents say that C. S. Lewis is just the tip of the Christian iceberg. A source confirms that the SF classic Ender’s Game, by Mormon author Orson Scott Card, The Lord of the Rings, by Catholic J.R.R. Tolkien, plays by Anglican William Shakespeare and epic poetry by pagan Homer will all be under review. This purge may not stop at religion, as some parents are also worried about the hidden vegan agenda of Dav Pilkey, author of the popular and irreverent Captain Underpants series.

Note: This is a work of satire.

17 Comments

  1. mel

    Actually, it’s brain-dead fundamentalism (non-Christian edition). How embarrasssing for all who call themseves atheists and freethinkers.

  2. I must say this worries me somewhat as well. Even though I’m mostly agnostic, and I worry about my sons being brainwashed in an actual Sunday school, I think that censorship on that level is extreme. I guess I also don’t worry about it too terribly much because I was indoctrinated from a young age and still find myself incredulous at some of the things I believed as a child and young adult. I don’t necessarily think that what kids believe as kids is indicative of what they’ll believe as adults, so why worry? I’ve wondered if my kids will decide to be Christian just because I’m not and they like the difference it represents (sort of like I’m agnostic now, but started down my path in an effort to find truth, what if they find truth differently than I do?).

    Sorry, rather long for someone who never comments.

  3. John

    Lessie and Mel, I have to apologize–this was intended as a work of satire, inspired by the Onion and by real news events related to response of some Catholics to the Golden Compass book and movie. I thought I had enough internal clues to indicate the satirical nature, but maybe the world has enough craziness in it that this story is believable.

    I feel especially bad because I was hoping that people would feel amused instead of distressed while reading this.

    Because I don’t like deceiving people, I inserted a “this is satire” warning at the beginning of the pseudo-article.

    Clues:
    – Onionville is a nod to the Onion magazine. No such place exists in Oregon.
    – Atheist League is a play on the Catholic League.
    – I mixed up the names of prominent atheists: Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Ellen Johnson, and Christopher Hitchens.

    I need to work on my satire. There’s a balance between reality and absurdity to be achieved, and it takes some skill to get there. I’ll keep working on it!

  4. mel

    Argh. I’m such a sucker for believing the worst in people. And I _was_ distressed! You got me. Thanks for the dose of reality … and I do love the commentary behind the satire.

  5. I’m having a dilemma. I’ve heard that The Golden Compass is a pretty lame movie… so lame that many reviewers doubt that the sequels will be made.

    I hate wasting my money on lame movies. On the other hand though, I am so nauseated by ignorant folk crying for a boycott on the film. So a part of me wants to buy a ticket just to spite them. However, on the other (third) hand, I don’t want to support lame filmmaking.

    I guess I could buy and read the books, but the cries to boycott the book (which does have a so-called ‘atheist agenda’) is not quite as ridiculous as the cries to boycott the movie (which apparently is now atheist agenda free).

  6. John

    We don’t go to see very many movies. This is because for the price of taking the family to a matinée, we could:
    = eat at an inexpensive restaurant
    = buy books for each member of the family
    = save up a big chunk towards a Wii or a road trip.
    We read a lot, so we tend to see film adaptations of books that all four of us have read and talked about. The Golden Compass falls into this category (the next one is probably Cornelia Funke’s Inkheart, Neil Gaiman’s Stardust was the previous).

    Having seen the movie, I would say that most of my joy was seeing the characters I loved come to life (plus it’s really hard to mess up with armored polar bears with a culture of dueling). Otherwise, I had mixed feelings about the movie: the acting was strong, but it definitely had issues with the plot and pacing.

    So, seeing the Golden Compass come to life is probably the most compelling reason to see the movie. I’d read the book first. Plus, the main objection that boycotters have with the movie is that it may lead parents to buy the books for their children.

  7. I basically went to see it for two reasons. Holy-crap-F’ing-polar-bears-in-armor!… and Sam Elliot and his Deamon rabbit. OK. I guess thats three reasons. I have to say I was sorely disappointed in the movie as it was like reading a book with every third page missing. Still, the conclusion of the bear duel was… Jaw dropping. 😛

    I can’t say that I can see just what all the religious voices are up in arms for, but then again, I havn’t read the books. The movie just didn’t seem very anti-religious, except for maybe the whole souls being called deamons, or the theory of multi-versus being like the idea that Earth isn’t the center of the universe. Oh yeah… There were witches…. and a beast that wanted a soul.

    hmm…. Now that I think about it, CS Lewis’s stories are full of magic, witchery, and “satanic” looking creatures pretending to help the children. 😛

    On your last comment, John. I just may end up buying the books for myself. I’ve heard the books are really good, and I left the theater feeling sorely disappointed in the movie. Of course, I had just watch the masterpiece of a movie “The Fountain” the day before, so that might account for the failed expectations.

  8. I do have to admit that you had me going for awhile, John, until I flashed on the “Onionville” thing. You do definitely have a talent for satire, proved by the fact that you managed to get people’s ire up with it.

    As far as going to see The Golden Compass…I haven’t done it yet, and I might wait until it hits DVD considering the reviews that it has been getting. On the other hand, it does have Sam Elliott in it, which is a fine reason to go see a movie all on its own, as far as I’m concerned. 🙂

  9. John

    Joe and Elaine: Lee Scoresby (played by Sam Elliot) and his jackrabbit daemon, Hester, are two of my favorite characters. The audiobooks, which are voiced by a full cast from the London theater scene, really brings them to life.

    And I reckon that Sam Elliott did a damn fine job. Also, his magnificent mustache was nothing to sneeze at. 😛

    Joe, The Fountain is now at the top of my Netflix queue. It had better be good! 😛

  10. Elaine, my mom was a huge Sam Elliott fan as I was growing up, but back then all he did was Westerns. I’ve thought about seeing the movie just to see him in a role that is so foreign from what I’ve come to expect from him.

    As for the books, I’m dying to read them, but am broke. I’ll have to go check my local library (although I do live in one of the most religiously conservative places in the nation, so I’m not sure how successful that search will be).

  11. mel

    I doubt you’ll feel like seeing the film was a waste of money. I too hesitated taking my family but then we couldn’t not — having been anticipating it for so long.

    As you’ve heard, the film was far from perfect, BUT, it was imperfect like people are imperfect.

    We greatly enjoyed the company of this film and you really can’t deny that the scope of what’s being communicated is thrilling. Thinking about what this film has to say will help you forgive it for how it often fails to tell the story well — and, as already stated by others, there are some gorgeous images and characters. This films budget was well spent on talent and technology.

    One further caveat: try to leave before the credit score sinks in … my kids couldn’t stop laughing, mimicking the corny lyrics. Really, WTF.

    But the final word is that we had a great time with the film and it renewed by kids passion for the books and for Lyra … that alone is worth more money than I’ll ever earn.

  12. Oh boy John, I was sucked in. It hit me when you got to the Zen Buddhist.

    It’s sad, because today, we really can’t be surprised by anything. Who knows who is going to stand up and say “not in my schools” – it could be for anything.

    One day, if we keep going like this, there won’t be anything left in schools to read except for Phonics readers which have zero story line or anything interesting. And text books that have gone through every possible special interest group’s edit before being published.

  13. even I was sucked in…that’s why I didn’t comment for a while; I wasn’t certain. I thought maybe you pulled it from the Onion (Onionville) and the list of all the other people (it was the vegan, not the atheists, that got me) getting on the bandwagon was a clue but I still wasn’t sure. When I re-read it today I saw the note & thought I’d just missed it before. Glad it wasn’t just me 🙂

    Narrator: my solution to movies-I-want-to-see-but-not-support (the Passion of the Christ comes to mind) is Netflix! Although that said, I didn’t pay to see this one…

    to all the Sam Elliot lovers: he is totally worth it. I’d completely forgotten about the character until he showed up on screen. I knew exactly who he was and who he was supposed to be (I think he may have played the part in the movie in my head when I was reading it). And to the Western lovers: he plays the role you’re used to him playing. He just has a talking rabbit as a side kick :-p Also! Go see 3:10 to Yuma. No Sam Elliot, but an awesome western.

    John: what’d you think of Stardust? I hadn’t read it and don’t think I realized that it was a Neil Gaiman story until I got there. My husband & I saw it together & while it was worth it for Robert De Niro, the rest of it was kinda “meh”.

    Mel: I don’t know what possessed anyone who was on board for that song. WTF doesn’t begin to describe it. In fact, until you reminded me, I’d totally blocked it out.

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