book banning backfire

When Freckles McYoungest was in eighth grade, her Catholic elementary school got a new principal. It was a shame, because the old principal had been there since before Freckles had been born. Mrs. Original Principal had ushered BoyWonder and Bottled Lightning from preschool through their Wonder Years, and we’d hoped she’d shake Freckles’ hand when she received her eighth grade diploma.


Because we soon found out that the new principal came from the only diocese IN THE NATION that refused to comply with the National Bishops’ guidelines on sex abuse. You know, about being transparent, educating kids and caretakers about safety, advocating for kids and not protecting the perpetrator, stuff like that.


That is a sign of CONSERVATISM in the extreme.

And so the weekly newsletters came home with inspirational stories about martyrs torn to pieces by wild beasts and how Caesar wore their intestines as a belt, and the virginal peasant girl who refused to let the duke kiss her hand so he flayed her alive for Jesus, or whatever. WITH XEROXED HOLY CARDS.

Yes, yes, but when are the high school entrance exams?

Then the day came when she went too far.

Our small but well-kept library, due to the efforts of our excellent, no-guff school librarian, had one copy of…

The Golden Compass.

Holy God.

It would have escaped the attention of Principal Throwback if The Parent hadn’t complained.


Well, hysteria on Principal Throwback’s part.

She sent home a three-page *special edition* newsletter on why she was removing the book from the library. But why stop there? She banned kids from bringing the book to school. She also urged us not to allow our children to read the book, or any book of Phillip Pullman’s, because he was an ATHEIST. And she attached reviews from Commonsense Media, and other documentation to prove his atheism.


As I read through the papers, hairs stood up on the back of my neck.

I asked Freckles’ if she’d heard about it–she hadn’t. I gave her the papers. I know. I’m sure I wasn’t supposed to do that. Phone calls were made. By Freckles. And other children whose mothers do things they’re not supposed to.

Enter a girl I will call Fleur. A genius kind of girl, a leader, with spiffy parents. She had read Golden Compass, and was not at all pleased with being told what she could and could not read. And that atheists were dangerous. Also, that the eighth graders were too weak-willed to use their own brains.

Oh yes, you would love to know this girl.

She organized.

The libraries and book stores–new and used, were cleaned out.

Because every eighth grader carried around a copy of The Golden Compass at that school. All day. For weeks. And none of the teachers stopped them.

How many read it? Probably not many.

But they could if they wanted to.


About Lisha Cauthen

Lisha Cauthen writes YA novels for guys that girls like to read too.

Posted on October 1, 2010, in end of western civilisation as we know it and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Karlos Mabrillio

    YAY for the non conformists, being one myself!!! Never read the book but now I want to. Do dyslexic athiests believe in a dog? 🙂

  2. I believe that they do not, Mr. “Mabrillio”, is it? I picture you with a long black mustache which you twirl, and slicked back hair.

    Somehow, I think you live in Pennsylvania and fix fences. And perhaps, you might even be RELATED TO ME.

    Non conformist? You? I will vouch for that.

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