Christian Harry Potter?

After years of trying to ban the Harry Potter books, the Religious Right is now pushing their own "Christian" alternative to the best-selling series.

TV preachers and the Religious Right have tried to undermine Harry Potter since the books first appeared on American shelves in 1998. In addition to being national best-sellers, the Harry Potter books hold the dubious distinction of being the most censored books in America, according to the American Library Association. Public schools and libraries have been under siege as the far-right demands that the books be struck from shelves.

As reported in Church & State magazine two years ago, the fuss over the Potter books centers on the perception that the books teach witchcraft to children. In late 2001, Pat Robertson launched a full-scale assault on the books. After broadcasting an interview with a far-right "expert on the occult," Robertson warned that God will turn his back on nations that tolerate witchcraft.

Other Religious Right leaders joined on the anti-Potter bandwagon. Everyone from Lou Sheldon's Traditional Values Coalition to D. James Kennedy's Coral Ridge Ministries had something to say about J.K. Rowling's best-selling heresy.

Some groups went so far as to organize book burnings. In Almagordo, N.M., Pastor Jack Brock of the Christ Community Church organized a mass burning of Harry Potter books. For good measure, he also tossed a ouija board and a copy of The Collected Works of William Shakespeare into the flames.

Censorship efforts escalated with the release of the Harry Potter films. In Cedarville, Ark., one parent complained that the Potter series is a "starting place to learn sorcery, witchcraft and other satanic ideas." When her local school board voted to require students to have parents' permission to read the books, church-state separationists intervened.

A federal court ruled that the school district had to treat the books the same as other works of fiction, and censorship efforts appear to have waned since then.

It nows appears that the Religious Right has found a new legal way to fight the Harry Potter books: promote their own "Christian" alternative. Just as the Left Behind books gave Tim LaHaye's far-right apocalyptic fantasies a mainstream audience, the new Shadowmancer book has been dubbed the "Christian Harry Potter" for its religious references.

First published in England, G.P Taylor's book climbed the American best-seller charts since it was released this May. Taylor, an Anglican vicar, has promoted his book largely through the media channels of the Religious Right. TV preacher Pat Robertson interviewed him on his 700 Club program. The online magazine of the far-right Focus on the Family declared, "It could be just the thing to counter Harry Potter's magic."

Film rights for the book have been optioned by the controversial Lisa Marie Butkiewicz of Fortitude Films. She garnered publicity last year as a leader of Women Influencing the Nation which formed to support Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ.

Taylor has said that he hopes Gibson will direct the movie version of his book.