Golden Compass banned

  • January 3, 2008

{mosimage}Despite a recommendation from its own review committee that The Golden Compass continue to be available to students in Grade 7 and above, the Halton Catholic District School Board has banned the book from all its libraries.

Following board policy, the school board yanked the book from library shelves in November following a complaint that the book was unsuitable material for a Catholic school. Author Philip Pullman has declared himself atheist and said his aim in the His Dark Materials trilogy is to “undermine the basis of Christian belief.” Pending a report from a board of trustees review committee, the book continued to be available to students who requested it from librarians.

Following the board vote the book will no longer be in any Halton Catholic school library collections.

“The majority of the board decided it was not in keeping with the board's mission statement, and what we're about,” said board chair Alice Anne Lemay.

Lemay conceded many would see the move to ban the book as draconian.

“They're going to say freedom of speech, they're going to say critical thinking, they're going to say a whole lot of things,” Lemay told The Catholic Register. “But there's a whole lot of good material out there that could be used for the same critical thinking. It's not that the children can't read the book. It's available in public libraries. It's available in book stores. There's lots of opportunities for them to read the book if they so choose.”

The Golden Compass  was voted the best children's book in the last 70 years in a world-wide poll earlier this year. Boston University theologian Donna Frietas said reading the books “enhanced my sense of the divine, of virtue, of the soul, of my faith in God.”

 Though The Golden Compass was published in 1995 and has been on school library shelves for years, the release of a Hollywood film adaptation starring Nicole Kidman has thrown the books and Pullman back into the spotlight, and inspired the American Catholic League to campaign against the book and the movie.

“Philip Pullman's trilogy of atheistic ideology, carefully couched within the realm of fantasy for young readers, is in direct opposition to the mission statement and governing values of our board,” was the official statement released by trustees when they voted to ban the book Dec. 18.

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