WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP, (AP) — School district officials being asked to restrict access to “satanic’’ material in libraries say they’re taking parental concerns seriously but haven’t agreed to pull the books.
A group called National Concerned Citizens for Youth is campaigning in Gloucester County’s Washington Township for restricted access, citing two books in particular, “The Devil’s Storybook’’ and “The Devil: Great Mysteries, Opposing Viewpoints.’’
While the group concedes those books may have some educational value, its members say they don’t want elementary and middle-schoolers having access to them.
“I don’t think Thomas Jefferson intended for the First Amendment to be used for this stuff,’’ Tahir Mella told the Courier-Post of Cherry Hill for Friday’s editions.
Washington Township School Superintendent Tom Fleming said the district had received no previous complaints about the books, but the school board is now reviewing their content.
Mella maintains that the books sparked his 14-year-old stepson’s interest in Satanism and led him down a dark path that included self-mutilation. The teenager now attends church weekly, Mella said.
While the two books once checked out by his stepson might be appropriate for older high school students, Mella said, younger adolescents “don’t need to know about this stuff any more than they need to know how to make a homemade bomb.’’
Others disagree. Schools should be able to expose students to different ideas, 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 should not have a right to veto the books for everybody just because they don’t want their child exposed to them,’’ she told the newspaper.
Thomas Schouweiler, whose book, “The Devil: Great Mysteries, Opposing Viewpoints,’’ was published in 1992 as part of an educational series, said the book discusses the history of Satanism.
“It’s certainly not advocating Satanism and it’s not even very titillating,’’ Schouweiler said.
But the Mellas and the parents’ group, which includes about 20 other parents, plan to take their campaign next to chain bookstores, which they say should treat occult books the same as pornography.
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.
“I’m not trying to be a fanatic about the wrongdoings of the devil, but what we’re talking about is obscene,’’ she said.
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