Since the 1960’s, groups from the religious right have attacked public schools in general and language arts departments in particular. These conservative Protestants believe in the absolute authority of the Bible and salvation through belief in Christ. Christian news shows charge educators with diluting academics, condoning homosexuality, and generally opposing Christian principles. The term “secular humanism” is used to confront texts that are viewed as opposing God, Christianity, and patriotism. New Age religion, it is alleged, teaches that humans must save themselves and reject theism.
Fantasy books are particularly susceptible to the secular humanism charge because of witches, fairies, and other chimerical characters. Katherine Paterson’s Bridge to Terabithia (1977), for example, has been challenged on the basis of containing New Age religion and inappropriate use of God’s name. Roald Dahl’s The Witches (1983), popular with upper elementary and middle school children, has been accused of teaching witchcraft and Satanism.
Radicals and feminist activists have also challenged young adult books, showing that censorship comes from the Left as well as the religious right. In LaGrange, Kentucky, a challenge to The Witches came from members of the Wiccan religion, who maintained that witches in the book were negatively depicted. A parent in Louisville, Kentucky, challenged Judy Blume’s Blubber (1974) because of characters who speak racial slurs. Challenges regarding racism and sexism present complex questions since people disagree about what constitutes racism or sexism and its influence on the reader. Recurrent battles concerning Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884) are examples.