February 17, 2018

Harry Potter Book Burning Draws Fire

By Kathy Ishizuka

NM church burns Rowling books in

It was supposed to be a local church gathering of about 500 parishioners to usher in the new year, says Jack Brock, pastor of the Christ Community Church in Alamogordo, in south-central New Mexico. But when congregants ceremonially fueled a bonfire with copies of Harry Potter and other books, the December 30, 2001, event drew a far greater response.

In addition to the J. K. Rowling title, which Brock called a “masterpiece of satanic deception,” other materials were thrown on the “holy bonfire”—everything from popular magazines to a Ouija board. The Alamogordo Daily News reported that J. R. R. Tolkien’s novels and The Complete Works of William Shakespeare were among the books that were burned. Parishioner Jennifer Jaglowitz, 17, discarded a Backstreet Boys music tape, among other personal items. “It [burning them] will help strengthen my life in Jesus Christ and my relationship with him,” she told the Albuquerque Tribune.

Close by, the incident t
riggered the opposite reaction: the Alamogordo Public Library has decided to extend its current Harry Potter display, which was originally mounted to coincide with the November premiere of the feature film based on the first book of the series. By so doing, Library Director Jim Preston wants to reassure the public, particularly children “that Harry is alive and well at their library.”

“Book burning is the kind of thing that makes your hair stand on end,” says Beverley Becker, associate director of the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom. Although they rarely occur, Becker says, these events always illicit strong reactions, both for and against.

As many as 800 protesters lined up across the street from the book burning, some chanting “Shame on you,” while others held signs. Church members were heckled, but no arrests were made. In a statement on the Church Web site, Brock maintains that he never sought media attention.

Since then, the public has made
generous cash donations to the library, says Preston. “With this money we are purchasing additional copies of Harry Potter, Tolkien, and Shakespeare.”