Golden Compass book coverAnd now the challenges begin. With all the accusations astir in blogs and chain e-mails that Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series has been teaching children to be atheists, some religious schools are deciding to pull copies of the series from their library shelves, or trying to discourage families from reading the book as the release date of the Golden Compass film, December 7, approaches.

In Austin, TX, the local Catholic bishop has asked that the series be removed from the diocese’s school libraries, for example. In fact, the request soon turned into all of Pullman’s books:

Last week, Austin Bishop Greg¬≠ory Aymond, concerned with the book’s portrayal of the church as hierarchical and authoritarian, ordered all copies of Pullman’s trilogy, titled His Dark Materials, banned from Catholic schools in the diocese. Aymond said in a written statement: “Pullman’s books attempt to devalue religion, especially Christianity. Our children deserve better reading material than what is in these books.” According to Aymond’s office, Catholic school Superintendent Ned Vanders told an assembly of principals Wednesday that the bishop had “requested” all of Pullman’s books be removed, and by Thursday the books were off library shelves.

Some Protestant religious schools, the story says, are also calling for boycotts of the book, and even a public middle school is discouraging children from reading the books in an afterschool book club.

Will Lyra Belacqua become the next Harry Potter in the eyes of conservative religious protesters? Stay tuned.