Bush officials vs. J.K. Rowling: Were they seriously worried about 'Harry Potter' promoting witchcraft?!

george-bush-potter_lJ.K. Rowling is surely one of the most universally beloved people alive today. A one-time single mom on welfare who created a wonderful world of magic that got countless kids reading actual novels — who could think of her as anything other than utterly awesome? The answer might be the former Bush Administration. George W. Bush’s one-time speechwriter Matt Latimer’s new memoir claims that certain unnamed “people in the White House…object[ed] to giving the author J.K. Rowling a presidential medal because the Harry Potter books encouraged witchcraft.” (Kudos to the bloggers at Think Progress for noticing this passage.)

Latimer is your classic disgruntled former employee, and his allegation is oddly light on details — When did this happen? Who exactly expressed these objections? — so take it with a grain of salt. That said, there’s something irritating about this story. What kind of person actually disapproves of Harry Potter? Here’s a little reality check/spoiler alert: Magic is not real. Avid Rowling readers can shout “Expelliarmus!” or even “Avada Kedavra!” as often as they like; nothing scary is going to happen. Unless, that is, you consider children exercising their imaginations to be scary, which, if Latimer’s allegation is true, I’m forced to conclude must have been the position of these Bush officials.

What do you think of this story? Can you believe there are actually people living in this century who think Harry Potter’s fictional magic is dangerous? Aren’t the Potter books really about family, friendship, and the power of love, anyway? Or maybe you think Latimer is just full of it? Sound off below, unless J.K. Rowling’s nefarious writings have already turned your brain to jelly.


Comments (237 total) Add your comment
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  • Patti

    Umm, my neighbors won’t let their kids read HP because it promotes the devil, magic and all manner of evil. People really do believe that stuff and (here’s a shocker) they voted for Bush! The 6th grade class here goes to toronto every year and HP movies were not allowed to be played on the bus, due to the huge outcry from parents. We had to watch HSM/HSM2 – it was not enjoyable. FYI – I live just outside Ann Arbor Michigan (a very liberal town) but out here in the sticks people are very conservative and scared of make believe wizards.

    • Tarc

      There is no shortage of religious nutjobs in this nation. Unfortunately, we were the religious Australia – the place where all the rational nations sent the Taliban of their times to get rid of them. The genetic heritage of people that live their lives in (irrational, unfounded) fear goes on.

    • Katja

      It was always my experience that the people who thought HP promoted witchcraft and devil-worshipping never actually bothered to read the books. They would hear from somebody that they were some degree of evil, and take that person’s word for it, be they neighbor or politician or church person. My uncle expressed concern about HP at one point, saying they didn’t let their son read the books because of the devil and witchcraft stuff, and then my mom convinced him to actually read the books and see all the nothing-but-positive messages. I hate that so many people don’t bother to do their own research on stuff like this or pretty much anything political. Scary.

    • Teri

      I actually grew up in “sticks” not far outside of Ann Arbor in the Onsted and Tecumseh area. Now, I know there are some hardcore crazy people out there but I only knew of several people that were forbidden to read HP and/or thought it promoted the devil. I really don’t think the people that hate HP because of what they think it does to their kids are necessarily republican either. Honestly, I’m pretty sure it’s just a crazy person thing. By the way, I LOVE Harry Potter and no one can convince be otherwise.

      • crispy

        Republican, crazy person… what’s the difference?

    • Claire

      Ann Arbor was also the place where the Harry Potter musical happened, that ew promoted a while ago.

      Some people just want to find evil in anything they see, so they don’t have to see the evil in themselves.

    • Emmy

      Patti- It is shocking how conservative Saline is even being so close to Ann Arbor. I like to believe that Saline is more open-minded than some of the other small towns near A2, but it’s not. How is HSM a better option than HP? It’s crazy.

  • DW

    Uh oh, the religious nuts are going to storm this thread!

    • Lucy

      I’m a devout Catholic and I love the Harry Potter books. Methinks you are more close-minded than you want to believe!

      • crispy

        Of course the Catholics love Harry Potter books. Makes it so much easier for priests to lure young kids.

      • John

        Catholics typically don’t have a problem with HP…it’s mostly the Fundementalists.

      • Laura G.

        Crispy – you comment is uncalled for and tasteless.

      • KFed

        Actually, Catholics aren’t supposed to be reading Harry Potter if they want to go to Heaven (or something). According to the Vatican: “Behind Harry Potter hides the signature of the king of the darkness, the devil.” (Google it)

    • thayne heisel

      Well, at least us who have accepted Jesus Christ as Savior know where we will be spending eternity. The Bible does say: Romans 16:19
      Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I am full of joy over you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil.
      Romans 16:18-20 (in Context) Romans 16 (Whole Chapter) Therefore, Christians should be bote aware & wise about the practice of Witchcraft.

      • sweetiepie1019

        I’m not the type to blame questionable actions on religious beliefs … but boy are you not helping the cause there dude. How is Harry Potter evil? And can witchcraft and magic be evil when they’re not real? And honestly, if there is a God and I do get things tallied up good and evil that I’ve done, I think the fact that I read Harry Potter is going to be about as harmful to my eternal soul as the time I stuck a caterpiller down my sisters back because she took my piece of cake at a birthday party.

      • kelsey

        “Well, at least us who have accepted Jesus Christ as Savior know where we will be spending eternity.”

        Why? Just … why?

      • NotoriousFluffyG

        “Well, at least us who have accepted Jesus Christ as Savior know where we will be spending eternity.”

        Des Moines?

      • Peter

        “Well, at least us who have accepted Jesus Christ as Savior know where we will be spending eternity.”

        Frisbetarians know that where they will be spending eternity, too: stuck on the roof.

      • Kevin

        Christians like you are perfectly fine with witchcraft, as long as it’s your guy casting the spells. What’s more magical than walking on water?

  • Sue

    It just shows that you don’t have to be smart to be in a position of power. Let’s completely forget that the books show that love and friendship are powerful and good things.

  • John

    This article is going to act as a magnet to those people you don’t think exist, Simon. Watch out.

    Having said that, you’re absolutely right. People who blindly criticize the books for “promoting witchcraft” are completely missing the (obvious) point of them and all fantasy fiction – allegories for real life and values that can be learned from them, as well as learning that your imagination is a GOOD thing.

    • Karen

      If one learns that magic isn’t real then what else isn’t real? Magic is a perfect metaphor to teach children about many things, I agree. But where is God in magic you might ask. The common answer is nowhere. God loving/fearing parents often find it hard to allow children’s imaginations to go to a realm where God is not the center. This is confusing enough for an adult to face and perhaps even harder for a child.
      If parent let the imagination of their child go then, they risk beginning a cataclysm of events causing the child to question all of their beliefs. Some parents just want to keep life simple.
      It is truly scary when one realizes that magic isn’t real. This then leads to larger questions toward faith and reality.
      Many can’t/don’t want to think this hard, they just want to live a life hey know how to live. It’s easier to hate/ban HP (or anything else that poses to many questions), than to examine ones own beliefs.
      Basically I don’t think the parents who banned HP from their children even really realize why they do, but they know it will lead to something they never prepared themselves to discuss or respond to.

      • Laura G.

        So children shouldn’t use their imagination? There is so much fundamentally wrong with this, I don’t know what to say. . .

      • michele

        My kids stayed with their aunt/uncle (father’s side) for a few months during a bitter divorce. I sent my son “The Two Towers” which was re-released in paperback because of the movie (Orlando Bloom is SO cute).

        Guess what she did?

        BURNED IT in the backyard — held a “family meeting” to ensure my children wouldn’t revere a symbol of devil worship and alien lands (this being a gift from the kid’s own MOTHER).

        Hey CAROL (wherever you are, you -itch), come out and GET BURNED TOO. At least we will have saved your next targeted book. I was completely, utterly and absolutely horrified…never punched her but the kids were out of there in days…

  • sarahp

    Yeah, this doesn’t shock me, I’ve known some people who haven’t let their kids read them for that very reason. People like that always exist…a good friend of mine in high school wasn’t allowed to watch Buffy for the same reasons. When it comes to finding reasons to be offended, nothing really surprises me anymore. However, I agree that this particular tidbit shouldn’t be taken at face value as representative of the Bush administration. Without any names or details, it sort of sounds like saying something just to get a reaction without much fact-base.

  • j wrenenny

    Rowling and her books promotes love and loyalty to family and friends. Magic doesn’t exist people. Love does. Friendship does. Don’t put down what you don’t know.

  • haldis

    I wasn’t suprised people in power believe that kind of crap, especially the Bush administration. The ignorance that came from that administration just became a running joke. I mean hello the president couldn’t even pronounce “nuclear.” It is also not suprising that those same people feel the same thing. They even called AmeriCorps volunteers “Nazis.” Talking to you Glenn Beck!

    • Katja

      Interjection on behalf of southerners and mid-westerners: differences in regional pronunciation are not indicative of intelligence (or lack thereof). A lot of very smart people pronounce things differently. I don’t mean to defend Bush in any way, or attack him or anyone else – I’m trying to be neutral. I just hate when people judge anyone negatively based on regional accent. I realize it’s spelled “nu-cle-ar”, but I’m more concerned with analytical ability, logic, ethics, and general knowledge than whether someone got into the habit of pronouncing their words wrong.

      • Danno

        I don’t care where you are from there is no “regional dialect or accent” that considers the correct pronunciation of the word NUCLEAR as NUCULER. That isn’t a regional thing it is an uneducated thing just like calling a LIBRARY a LIBERRY.

      • Denny

        I’m from the South and I’m college-educated. I’m also from an area people commonly call the boondocks. I know what a country and/or Southern accent sounds like, and pronouncing nuclear as “nucelar” is ignorant and grating even to my so-called hatseed ears. Don’t put that on us, please.

      • Denny

        That was supposed to be hayseed. Damnit!!!

      • Peter

        Don’t forget “Febyooary” for February.

  • Mrs.Cleaver

    Yea, HSM1 and HSM2 with all those slutty naked girls. My kids have read and seen all the Harry Potter stuff and never once have they expressed an interest in witchcraft or conjuring up a long dead family pet. The difference is my kids have read all kinds of books and know that they are just stories. Unlike Bush-like zombies who have never read anything and look at a Harry Potter book as a “Devil” cookbook. They, and Bush, need to read more.

    • Amanda

      I’m pretty sure Bush can’t actually read.

      • Peter

        So basically whoever read the book to Bush told him that it promotes witchcraft, and he believed it.

    • Peter

      I read this book with all kinds of stories in it. There’s one story where a man returning from war sacrificed his only daughter, and another story where a supposedly “just” man got drunk and impregnated both of his daughters. And another story where a man was commanded to sacrifice his son and almost did it. Yet another story tells of these people who invaded a country and killed not only the men, but all the women and children also. This is not some smut published by Larry Flynt or some horror novel by Stephen King. This is the Bible.

      And somehow, this is morally superior to reading the Harry Potter fantasy novels about witchcraft.

      • Laura G.

        Truthfully I was horrified as a child when I started reading the Bible and discovered these stories . . . they didn’t teach that in Sunday School!

  • Tricia

    Unfortunately, I also know people who believed this and didn’t let their kids read Harry Potter, so it doesn’t seem impossible.

    It is sad, though, because those books are wonderful.

  • DUSITN

    Unless Matt Latimer would like to name the person and let them defend or confirm it themselves I have to pass on gossip. Unless I also believe all the stuff Dick Morris says about the Clinton’s in his books. But I have a feeling like Morris its all about the money!

    • Laura

      Very good point. I’m a Democrat, not a fan of the Bush administration and love Harry Potter. However, this is vague at best and I don’t think generalizing about religion or political ideology makes the allegation less vague. I have encountered people who did not want their kids to read Harry Potter. I don’t understand that thinking and seeing them as Democrat vs Republican or Catholic vs agnostic won’t make it any clearer.

      • Peter

        I agree that it is questionable whether this is specifically true about anyone in the Bush administration. The sad truth, however, is that there are far too many people in the general population who did vote for Bush and who feel exactly the same way.

        And then there are the Harry Potter book burning parties. I’ve never understood that. They either have to buy the Harry Potter books to burn them, in which case J.K. Rowling is crying all the way to the bank for all the free publicity (buy burn all you want, we’ll print more); or else they steal the books and burn them, which is theft and destruction of private property, which last time I checked was a crime in most jurisdictions. We won’t get into the greenhouse and air pollution issues.

  • Tarc

    Well, considering that the Bush adminstration was a combination of severaly cynical secular far right conservatives and nut-job Christian extremists, there reall should be no surprise. The nutjobs did the screaming about ‘witchcraft’ in this day and age (little different than the Taliban in principle), and the secular politicians just looked owlishly at them and it (being the kookiest stuff) went ignored. This was the day to day in the Bush administration.

  • xfoley8

    Yep, my in-laws went to a church where the pastor gave a sermon about the evils of Harry Potter and withcraft. He even burned a Potter book in the pulpit (amongst other ‘evil’ items of pop culture). This was in CT, EW writer guy. It’s very naive (and dangerous) to think people who think like this don’t exist, or that none of them could be in positions of power.

  • KFed

    Simon, I feel you have lived a sheltered life; the kind of sheltered life that surrounds you with open-minded people. There are plenty of parents – oh, and the Vatican! – that are opposed the Potter (and similar witchy-themed) books. Many religious schools ban students from reading them (at school at least). Considering some of the ultra-conservatives in Bush’s team this comes as no surprise to me.

    • Vatican not oppsed

      Unless you have a source that this Catholic doesn’t know about. Open-minded? Not you.

      • KFed

        I didn’t just make it up. Like the poster below said, google it. Ignorant Catholic? You.

    • Vatican praises HP

      Google “vatican half blood prince”

      • KFed

        Google “Vatican exorcises Harry Potter”

  • avid reader

    I have read the books. They do promote love and family but they also promote witchcraft which regardless of what you think does exist and is real. It is the devils work and can have real consequences. Just as prayor and miracles do still happen. The people who understand this are the ones that don’t let their kids read it. Mine have bean allowed to read them but I have talked with them about it and they understand how real and bad witchcraft is.

    • crispy

      How do you know if someone’s a witch?

      • Monty

        Well witches burn, and wood burns, and wood floats, but what also floats? A DUCK! Yes, if she weighs the same as a duck, she’s a witch!

      • crispy

        BURN HER!!!

      • Newt

        She turned me into a newt!!!

        (I got better)

    • dgh

      Witchcraft is about as real as religion is which means they are both make believe.

    • John

      Real-life Wiccan culture has very little to do with the Arthurian Merlin-inspired magic of the Harry Potter books. Anyone who possesses an iota of discriminating thought can figure that out.

    • Katja

      Okay. Let’s assume that witchcraft is real. (For the record, I do not believe this.) How do these books promote it? The way I read it, one of the many great messages of the books is: regardless of different abilities/lifestyles (magical vs. nonmagical) people have the same values and rights. Witches/wizards are no better than Muggles. Sure they can do cool things with magic, but Muggles have electricity, cars, airplanes, SCUBA tanks, and all sorts of things magical people do not understand. Two groups of people have solved the same problems in different ways with the same degree of effectiveness. The characters are mainly magical, because the story is set in a magical, IMAGINARY world, but the books really hammer you with the point that magical people are no better than nonmagical.

    • Felicia

      If you really felt this way, maybe you shouldn’t have let your kids read it. Magic is real? That would be really cool but unfortunately, no, it’s not and HP wasn’t really about magic anyway.

    • Amanda

      What’s prayor?

    • Ben

      Isn’t prayer – i.e., asking a higher power to interceed on your behalf – essentially saying magic words to enact an effect. How is prayer different? It’s just a different form of belief.

    • Mark

      You are a psycho and your children should be taken away from you.

    • Brittany

      It does NOT promote the devil. Satan is not mentioned once.

  • dgh

    This is a perfect story for all the religous nuts and fanatic Bush haters to argue about pointless stuff that makes no difference in your life but you people sure like to b*itch about it.

    • xfoley8

      It makes a huge difference in people’s lives when books are banned and you lose freedom of speech.

      • dgh

        Was Harry Potter banned and I missed something? And just how was your freedom of speech affected???

      • Liza5326

        dgh – A lot of schools added HP to their “banned books” list. I am continuely amazed how people say these books promote witchcraft and evil. They are amazing stories of the struggle between good and evil, love, friendship, and families. In that case, they should ban their kids from watching Disney movies since there are a lot of witches in their movies!

    • Mickey Z.

      dgh-
      heck yeah, if we argue about THIS, then we continue to put our heads in the sand when it comes to real issues. By the way, I truly loved the HP books, even as a Born again Christian. And I don’t believe in book-banning or burning. If parents have a problem with a book, then they should INDIVIDUALLY take care of that w/in their homes. NOT OUR LIBRARIES. The end.

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