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Potter upheld again - Mother loses latest attempt to remove books

LAWRENCEVILLE - After losing her latest battle to keep Harry Potter books out of the classroom, a Loganville mother on Tuesday said she may start a new case in federal court.

Laura Mallory, who has challenged the use of the books in schools since 2005, said she was not surprised by Superior Court Judge Ronnie Batchelor's decision to uphold the Gwinnett County Board of Education's ruling.

"I've done the best I can by myself," said Mallory, who argued her case without an attorney. "Perhaps we need a whole new case built from the ground up."

Although Mallory was not allowed on Tuesday to present new evidence, she argued for about an hour that the Harry Potter books promote witchcraft and contain violent material not suitable for young children.

"This is not just fiction or fantasy in the books," Mallory said. "Witchcraft is real. It's been around for thousands of years, and we were warned of it from God."

Mallory began to cry as she read testimony that had been presented in April 2006 by a then-15-year-old girl who said the Harry Potter books caused her to become fascinated with witchcraft and experiment with tarot cards, curses and seances.

"Your honor, we need God back in our schools," Mallory said, with tears in her eyes, in the middle of reading the testimony.

As she continued her argument, Mallory said she feels there is a bias in schools against Judeo-Christian values. It's not fair, she said, that the Bible isn't used as a textbook while teachers are reading the Harry Potter series to students and classes are taking field trips to see the movies based on the bestselling series.

"We don't want our children to be murderers, but we can't teach that in our schools anymore," Mallory said. "'Thou shalt not kill' is out."

After violent events such as school shootings, Mallory said people often ask where God is.

"God is still here, but he was kicked out of schools," Mallory said. "I have a dream that God will be welcome back in schools again. I think we need him."

School board attorney Victoria Sweeny argued that Mallory, rather than submitting evidence in previous hearings, presented hearsay found on the Internet and presented excerpts from the novels without providing context.

"I'm not here to defend Harry Potter," Sweeny said. "I'm here to defend the right of the Gwinnett County Board of Education to make lawful decisions."

The school board, Sweeny said, presented plenty of evidence that the books contain themes of the triumphs of good over evil and encourage children to read.

Furthermore, Sweeny said Mallory's argument that the books violate the constitutional separation of church and state is incorrect and that the issue is actually centered on the First Amendment clause that guarantees the freedom of expression.

Sweeny asked the judge to keep in mind Thomas Jefferson's statement that freedom of speech cannot be limited without being lost.

Sloan Roach, spokeswoman for Gwinnett County Public Schools, said the district is pleased with the court's findings.

"The issue of removing a book from a school library is a serious issue," Roach said.

It would contradict case law to remove a book because someone doesn't like the ideas expressed within the pages, Roach said.

Mallory said ultimately she wants the public to know the truth about witchcraft and the occult.

"I have to pray about the next step," Mallory said. "I've been praying or I would have quit a long time ago."

Mallory has tried to ban the books from county school library shelves since August 2005, arguing that the popular fiction series is an attempt to indoctrinate children in witchcraft.

School board members have said the books are good tools to encourage children to read and to spark creativity and imagination. In May 2006, the county denied Mallory's request. In December, the state Board of Education upheld the county's decision.

J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter books, published by London-based Bloomsbury Publishing PLC, tell stories of children with magic powers. They have been challenged numerous times since 2000, making them the most challenged texts of the 21st century, according to the American Library Association.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.