Jacksonville Library Drops Harry Potter Certificates

Jacksonville Library Drops
Harry Potter Certificates

The Jacksonville (Fla.) Public Libraries have avoided a lawsuit by abandoning their short-lived practice of presenting a “Hogwarts’ Certificate of Accomplishment” to young readers who finished the latest—and at 734 pages the largest—of the Harry Potter books.

Liberty Counsel of Orlando, a religious legal-defense group, told the September 12 Florida Times-Union that it was satisfied with the library’s decision to stop handing out the mock diplomas to those who completed Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. A Jacksonville parent, John Miesburg, had complained about the certificates to the library board and the Jacksonville city council.

J. K. Rowlings’s best-selling series tells the story of a young student at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry who fights evil using spells and magic. Liberty Counsel President Mathew Staver objected that “witchcraft is a religion, and the certificate of witchcraft endorsed a particular religion in violation of the First Amendment establishment clause.”

Library Director Ken Sivulich said the certificates were intended to encourage children to read. He said the library stopped issuing them July 19, but is not considering removing any of the Harry Potter books, which topped ALA’s 1999 list of most-banned books, from library shelves.

Posted September 18, 2000.