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Parental Involvement:

Opting Out of Occult Books

That Violate Religious Principles


Q. My fifth-grade daughter's assigned novel for class has incantations from a pagan religion. I don't want her to read it.


Children's books with occult content have been around for centuries. From the wicked witches of fairy tales to the occultic content of the Harry Potter media spectacle, they depict things that are specifically termed "wrong" in religions such as Judaism and Christianity.


It is important for parents to "opt out" their children from harmful literature to send a message to school officials, that parents care as much about what goes into their child's mind and heart, as they do about what goes into their child's stomach at lunchtime.


Focusing on occultic content:


Some books and stories portray characters as "good," even if they practice witchcraft and do other objectionable things, if the result of their actions is good. That violates clear religious teachings that the ends never justify evil means.


There are educators who push channeling, spirit guides, astrology, ghosts, mandalas, reincarnation, yin-yang, and other religious beliefs and occultic content and practices, probably not realizing that those things are condemned by the Bible and off base for the majority of their students, who are likely to be from Christian families.


It is highly possible that school officials are not aware of the specific do's and don'ts in the various religions of the students in their school. Even many Christian educators don't realize that the Bible condemns sorcery, necromancy, astrology and other fairly common New Age practices in the modern world. If you know that your child's teacher, the counselor or the principal are nominal Christians or Jews, you might want to include a Bible citation or two for their benefit. (For books that promote witchcraft, Exodus 22:18, Deuteronomy 18:10, 1 Samuel 15:23, 2 Chronicles 33:6, Galatians 5:20, and many more.)


The dangers of occult games such as "Dungeons and Dragons" are well-documented. They have been linked to copycat risk-taking behaviors, including substance abuse and crime. If occult games are introduced in schools, it should be easy to get them thrown out.


It's more difficult with schoolbooks assigned by a teacher. Academic freedom clouds the issue, even if there is occultism, profanity, violence or inappropriate sexuality in the assigned reading. No one likes censorship, and there's room for tolerance for diverse perspectives on these matters. But officials and other parents need to know about bad curriculum choices.


Opting your child out of an objectionable book, and into one with the same academic purposes but no troubling content, is a good solution.


Ask at the school office for the school's office opt-out form for objectionable curriculum. If they don't have one, you can obtain an opt-out form from the Pacific Justice Institute, See "Request an Opt-Out Form" at the bottom of the "Schools" section.


Suggest that your school make copies of that form available to other parents from now on, and educate your fellow parents about the duty to opt out a child from objectionable curriculum, and how to do it.


You might want to photocopy brief passages of the book that raise your objections, and quietly and professionally circulate them to other parents, school staff and elected school-board members. Don't raise a stink, threaten a lawsuit, or undermine any teacher's authority by going over anybody's head to the district level. Just opt out your own child, tell others if you wish, but hope that your example is an effective teacher.


Some of the books that frequently draw complaints about occult content include The Wizard of Oz by Frank Baum, The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder, and the Harry Potter series by Linda K. Rowling.


Parents who have studied books like these make a compelling case that there are better books available with the same educational value that don't offend mainstream sensibilities or parental autonomy. Ask your school librarian, a public librarian, or a local bookstore to help you identify better books that provide the same positive lessons without the objectionable content.


If people criticize you and say that you would like to "censor" folk tales that feature witches, point out that those old folk tales are fine because they ALWAYS portray the witch as bad, and NEVER glorify or give precise wording of spells or step-by-step instructions of occultic practices, as the recent books do, that are so provocative and easy for vulnerable children to copycat.


One final point: it could be said that books about the occult, magic and witchcraft waste time because they fail to teach children real-world, useful skills, logic, problem-solving or critical thinking.


Homework: See Like Lambs to the Slaughter: Your Child and the Occult, by Johanna Michaelsen, Harvest House, 1989, which has good advice for parents in the back . . . also The Seduction of Our Children: Protecting Kids From Satanism, New Age and The Occult by Neil T. Anderson and Steve Russo, 1991.


By Susan Darst Williams Parental Involvement 2012



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