Censorship

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You couldn’t make this rubbish up…

National Concerned Citizens for Youth … plans to campaign nationwide for restricted access by minors to “satanic” material in school libraries and bookstores. On Tuesday, members of the group appeared before the local school board seeking a ban on occult-related books… As an experiment, Wanda Mella recently sent her 11-year-old daughter into some area bookstores to buy a copy of the “Satanic Bible’’ by Anton LaVey. Although the girl didn’t buy the book, her mother said the clerks gladly helped her find it…

From Courier Post Online – and numerous syndicated news feeds…

Occult book ban demanded

Friday, January 30, 2004

Wash. Twp. parents want limits at school libraries
By TIM ZATZARINY JR.
Courier-Post Staff
WASHINGTON TWP.

Two books checked out from his middle-school library helped spark David O’Quinn’s interest in satanism and led him down a dark path that included self-mutilation, his parents contend.

Now, the 14-year-old’s parents, Tahir and Wanda Mella, have joined with other parents in pushing the school district to remove any books about the occult from township school libraries.

The Mellas concede the two books in question, The Devil’s Storybook and The Devil: Great Mysteries, Opposing Viewpoints, have some educational value, but they don’t want elementary and middle-schoolers having access to them.

In what’s shaping up to be a First Amendment test, the district is reviewing the matter, but hasn’t agreed to pull the books.

“I don’t think Thomas Jefferson intended for the First Amendment to be used for this stuff,” said Tahir Mella, David’s stepfather.

The Mellas, along with about 20 other parents, have started a nonprofit group called National Concerned Citizens for Youth. The group plans to campaign nationwide for restricted access by minors to “satanic” material in school libraries and bookstores.

On Tuesday, members of the group appeared before the local school board seeking a ban on occult-related books.

The district takes the parents’ concerns seriously, but won’t clear the shelves of all potentially offensive titles, Superintendent Tom Flemming said Thursday.

The goal of schools should be to expose students to different ideas and aspects of society, said Deborah Jacobs, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey.

“Assuming the books were appropriately chosen by library professionals, then one individual or group of parents should not have a right to veto the books for everybody just because they don’t want their child exposed to them,” she said.

While the two books checked out by his stepson might be appropriate for older high-school students, younger adolescents “don’t need to know about this stuff any more than they need to know how to make a homemade bomb,” said Tahir Mella, a native of the Philippines who practices personal-injury and immigration law in Philadelphia.

Beyond religion

Tahir and Wanda Mella consider themselves devout Christians and keep a Bible on the coffee table in their living room.

But for them, the issue goes far beyond religion.

In October, Wanda Mella found in her son’s room pages downloaded from an occult Web site. “I completely panicked,” she said.

Wanda Mella said she later discovered that David and his friends had downloaded the material on a computer at school. The Mellas don’t allow their children to use the Internet at home without supervision.

Around the same time, David, an eighth-grader at Chestnut Ridge Middle School here, used a razor blade to cut the inside of his forearm, his parents said.

And he and three of his friends tried to give each other tattoos with an ink gun.

David wanted “Damien” – an apparent reference to the movie The Omen, about a satanic child – tattooed on the back of his neck.

“They only got to `DA’ because it hurt too much,” said Wanda Mella, 32. “It’s a really scary thing.”

After David’s interest in the occult started, his parents noticed a change in him.

“He saw an immediate reward with it,” said Wanda Mella. “My son has never been a leader. He’s been more of a follower. He almost instantly fit in better.”

Tahir Mella said he believes his stepson was only dabbling in satanism. The teenager attends church weekly and was chosen as Chestnut Ridge’s student of the month in September, his stepfather said.

“I know he’s not a devil worshipper,” said Tahir Mella, 37. “This is nothing more than his morbid curiosity. But it could become dangerous. The devil is a real thing.”

David’s parents have cut off contact between him and the friends who shared his interest in the occult. The Mellas haven’t sought professional counseling for their son, but instead are getting spiritual counseling through their church, Chapel Heights United Methodist, they said.

Wanda Mella, a stay-at-home mother, complained to school administrators about her son’s access to occult Web sites in school. She asked that his computer use be restricted, but that hasn’t happened, she said.

David, a tall, lanky teen with braces, said he’s lost interest in the occult and has moved on to Christian rock music.

He said he doesn’t want people his age exposed to occult influences that might encourage suicide.

“If I could go back, I wouldn’t have done that all because it’s done so much damage” to his family, he said.

A way to rebel

It’s common for adolescents – especially white, upper middle-class males – to express a temporary fascination with the occult as a way of rebelling, experts say.

“It’s a relatively nondangerous way of challenging adult authority,” said Daniel Hart, a psychologist and associate dean of the School of Arts and Sciences at Rutgers University-Camden. “Peer influence can contribute to this.”

Hart, who has studied adolescent psychology, said banning age-appropriate books about the occult might not be the solution.

“The connection between these kinds of materials and what kids do is so indirect,” he said.

The Devil’s Storybook, first published in 1974, is a collection of humorous tales about the devil by well-known children’s author Natalie Babbitt.

The Devil, by Thomas Schouweiler, was published in 1992 as part of an educational series called “Great Mysteries, Opposing Viewpoints.” The book discusses the history of satanism and contains references to animal sacrifices and mail-ordering human flesh.

“It’s certainly not advocating satanism and it’s not even very titillating,” Schouweiler said.

Schouweiler, a freelance writer living in St. Paul, Minn., chalks up the objections to his book to political correctness. He said he’s never heard of any other complaints about The Devil.

Flemming said the district had received no previous complaints about the books. The school board is now reviewing their content. Under a district policy, when parents complain about a book, it is removed from shelves by a committee made up of the librarian, administrators, teachers and community members. The committee decides whether the book should be removed.

The Mellas and their group plan to take their campaign to chain bookstores, which they say should treat occult books the same as pornography: wrapped and placed high on the shelf or behind the counter, but not easily accessible to minors.

As an experiment, Wanda Mella recently sent her 11-year-old daughter into some area chain bookstores to buy a copy of the Satanic Bible by Anton LaVey. Although the girl never actually bought the book, clerks gladly helped her to find it, her mother said.

“I’m not trying to be a fanatic about the wrongdoings of the devil,” Wanda Mella said, “but what we’re talking about is obscene.”

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