December 02, 2007

Those crazy Canucks and the dreaded dangling carrot

From an article by Trevor Wilhelm in this past Wednesday's Windsor Star newspaper (emphasis mine):
The local Catholic school board is resisting pressure to remove from its libraries a controversial children's book that critics claim promotes atheism.

The local arm of a national Catholic group wants The Golden Compass -- now a big-budget movie -- banned. It has already been boycotted in the U.S. and banned by another Ontario school board.

"Under the guise of an exciting adventure story, the very clear message being given is that the Catholic church is an evil organization and God and Christianity are a fraud," said Bob Baksi, president of the Windsor Essex County chapter of the Catholic Civil Rights League.

But the local Catholic board, which has had the book in school libraries for a decade, doesn't plan to take it off the shelves.

The Golden Compass is part of a trilogy called His Dark Materials by British writer Philip Pullman. It's set in a parallel world where young heroine Lyra heads to the far north to save her kidnapped friend. She also fights an evil organization called Magisterium, which is the word Catholics use to describe the teaching authority of the church.

The book came out in 1995, but widespread controversy has heated up only recently as the film's Dec. 7 release date draws closer. The Catholic League, which claims to be America's largest Catholic civil rights group, has launched a nationwide boycott campaign.

The Halton Catholic District School Board has pulled the book from its shelves.

Canada's Catholic Civil Rights League issued a warning Monday on its website to members and supporters to not take their children to the movie because of the "strong anti-religious content" in the books.

Randy Sasso, supervisor of faith development with the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board, said the book is on library shelves in only six elementary schools and two high schools. He said it's not popular with students.

The school board never thought about the book's religious implications before, and still isn't worried, he said.

"We never brought a theological perspective to it," Sasso said.

"We treated it as fantasy. It seemed like another Alice in Wonderland, another Chronicles of Narnia. You really have to go through this with a fine tooth comb to catch any of the religious elements. It looks like a real publicity stunt. He's not even a particularly good writer."

Baksi said his group has asked Bishop Ronald Fabbro's office to approach school boards in the London Diocese area about removing the book.

"It shouldn't be in (Catholic) schools in the first place," he said.

Baksi hasn't read the book or seen the yet-to-be released movie, but added that shouldn't undermine his opposition.

"I don't have to see Debbie Does Dallas to know whether it is appropriate or consistent with the faith and values I would like to have in my house for my children," he said.

Baksi said he's heard Hollywood has watered down the more overt religious elements, but worries the movie will encourage people to buy the book for their children.

"The movie is a dangling carrot," he said. ...
Read the rest here.

Except for the gratuitous comment about the quality of Philip Pullman's writing, I'm quite impressed with the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board's approach.

No comments: