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Last Updated: Wednesday, 2 July, 2003, 12:43 GMT 13:43 UK
Australian college bans Potter
JK Rowling with Harry Potter fans
The new Harry Potter book has become a worldwide smash
A Christian college in Australia has become the latest institution to ban the Harry Potter books for putting "evil" wizardry in a good light.

Maranatha Christian College near Melbourne said the books promoted wizardry as normal - not a message to which students should be exposed.

A string of other schools around the world have taken the same step in recent years.

Principal Bert Langerak said: "As Christians, witchcraft and the occult are considered evil.

"It has been widely publicised that many children have tried to cast spells as a result of reading the books, and that is not a view we want held."

The college's librarians decided the stories were unsuitable but they had no complaints from students or parents, he said.

We would deal with Macbeth and Hamlet, because evil there is being portrayed as evil
Bert Langerak
Maranatha Christian College
"As a mature reader I can see the difference between fantasy and reality but some children cannot and this is where it becomes dangerous," he said.

He added: "We would deal with, say, Macbeth and Hamlet, because evil there is being portrayed as evil and not as being good."

Since Potter became the world's favourite children's character, there have been concerns around the globe about his influence.

In 2001, 60 Australian Seventh-Day Adventist schools banned the books from classrooms over concerns they might encourage children to experiment with the occult.

A cultural organisation tried to get them banned throughout Russia while 13 US states also tried to have them removed from shelves.

A US judge recently overturned a ban by an Arkansas school district after rejecting arguments that Harry Potter encouraged witchcraft.

Shredding party

A pile of Potter books were burned in New Mexico in December 2001 by a religious group who claimed Harry was "the devil",

A preacher in Lewiston, Maine, marked The Chamber of Secrets' release by holding a party in which he shredded copies of Potter books.

The books were successfully removed from private schools in the United Arab Emirates because the government said the story was contrary to Islamic values.

The latest book, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, was released to a worldwide frenzy on 21 June.

It sold 5.8 million copies on its first day in the US and UK alone - and topped the best-seller list in France, despite only being published in English.

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