Friday, December 21, 2007

Halton Catholic School Board Bans 'The Golden Compass'

The following letter was sent to the editor of The Milton Champion in response to today's front page article.

Dear Editor,

I was dismayed to read of the Halton Catholic School Board’s recent decision to ban Philip Pullman’s award winning books from their school library shelves. While I’m sure they had the best of intentions, I am concerned that by trying to protect their students from ‘atheist indoctrination’, they may be inadvertently promoting someone else’s agenda.

I find it hard to believe it is a coincidence that the Board received its single complaint about Pullman’s books at precisely the same time that the right-wing Catholic League in the U.S. began its email boycott campaign against them. These are the same people who have targeted everything from South Park to Rosie O’Donnell to the infamous ‘chocolate Jesus’ sculpture as being ‘anti-Catholic’. I would not be at all surprised if the complaint originated from either the Catholic League or from someone who had received an email from them.

I would have hoped that most Canadian Catholics were capable of seeing through this kind of reactionary neo-conservatism, but apparently not. At least not in Halton.

I was also shocked to read that the Board made their decision in direct opposition to the recommendations of their own Book Review Committee. What exactly is the point in having such a committee if their recommendations are simply going to be ignored? From what I understand, the committee members were all required to actually read the book. Did all of the trustees do the same, or were they simply reacting to what they had heard about the author and his views?

Ironically, it is precisely this kind of suppression of uncomfortable and controversial ideas that has led Pullman to be so critical of religion in the first place. By banning his books, they have proven his point.

I wonder what will inspire more Halton Catholic students to question their faith: reading ‘The Golden Compass’, or being forbidden to read it.

Your truly,

Jennifer Smith

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