Massachusetts Pastor Orders Harry Potter Books Removed From Catholic School

A Catholic pastor at a Massachusetts parochial school has made all the Harry Potter books there disappear, saying they are spiritually dangerous for children and could encourage them to engage in witchcraft.

The Rev. Ron Barker of St. Joseph's School in Wakefield, Mass., said he stripped the library there of the fantasy series by British author J.K. Rowling in the last month after discovering the novels were among the 10,000 volumes on the shelves.

"This is a parochial school and I have the moral authority to do this," he said in an interview with "For some people, reading those books is a vehicle to become involved in the occult. ... My basic premise is for the spiritual protection of the children."

Students at St. Joseph's are in grades kindergarten through eight, and range in age from 5 to 14. The Rowling series of seven books follows the adventures of a boy wizard named Harry Potter.

A group of about a dozen parents complained about Barker's decision to yank the books and wrote a letter petitioning him to put Potter back in the school library. Their concerns were included in a response the pastor drafted in the church newsletter, a copy of which he provided to

"We must allow our children the space to discover how to make correct moral choices on their own," the parents wrote. "While we recognize that some fear that Harry Potter books may lead to the practice of Wicca and Satanism, we respectfully disagree that such fears warrant the removal of reading material from the school library."

Barker contends that parents and children have every right to read the Potter series, of which the seventh and final installment "Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows" came out last summer. He suggested they check them out of the public library or get them at the bookstore but maintained they have no place in a Catholic school.

"I’m not preventing people from buying the books," Barker said. "I’m not marching down to the public library demanding that they burn the books. I'm protecting from what could be a danger to some people. Evil is very seductive."

Barker classifies Wicca, the official name for the practice of witchcraft, as evil, along with fortune-telling using Tarot cards, Ouija boards and other tools of mysticism.

And while Barker said he knows the Rowling series is fantasy fiction, he cited Internet rumblings of Wicca membership on the rise because the Potter books "glorify" sorcery — though he admitted he hadn't seen any solid statistics or studies on the subject.

Most students who read and enjoy Rowling's tales probably won't get caught up in sorcery, Barker said. But a few might — and that's what he fears.

"If there's a possibility for one getting involved, it's good to protect that one," he said.

A spokeswoman for Scholastic, which publishes the Harry Potter series under its imprint Arthur A. Levine Books, declined to comment. Rowling and her agent were not immediately available.