Ontario School Board Bans Fantasy Book

Burlington, Canada - A Roman Catholic school board in Ontario ordered the popular fantasy book "The Golden Compass" taken off library shelves at dozens of schools Thursday after receiving a complaint about the author referring to himself as an atheist.

Similar concerns prompted a Catholic organization in the U.S. to urge parents to boycott a movie version of the book starring Nicole Kidman.

The board for Catholic schools in Ontario's Halton region said a complaint was lodged after British author Philip Pullman stated in an interview that he is an atheist.

"We have a policy and procedure whereby individual parents, staff, students or community members can apply to have material reviewed. That's what happened in this case," said Rick MacDonald, the board's superintendent of curriculum services.

The board, which oversees 43 Catholic elementary and secondary schools, has not released the identity of the complainant. It also removed two other books in Pullman's "Dark Materials" trilogy as a precaution.

While "The Golden Compass" was first published in 1995, attention was drawn to the book by the film, which opens next month, MacDonald said.

Pullman has made provocative statements in the past, telling the Washington Post in 2001 that he was "trying to undermine the basis of Christian belief."

In 2003, he said that compared to the Harry Potter series, his books had been "flying under the radar, saying things that are far more subversive than anything poor old Harry has said. My books are about killing God."

In the U.S., the Catholic League has criticized Pullman's trilogy for bashing Christianity and promoting atheism. The organization urged parents to boycott the movie. The league also boycotted the movie adaptation of "The Da Vinci Code," which went on to become one of biggest movies of 2006.