Concerns voiced about The Golden Compass

 A storm is brewing about a new film for children that goes on general release on 7 December.

From the trailers, 'The Golden Compass' looks like another Narnia­ type fantasy. It stars Nicole Kidman, Kevin Bacon and Sam Elliot, and features exciting flying battles scenes and endearing talking animals.

But the movie has been condemned in the United States by the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, who say it contains anti-Christian and atheist themes. The League is calling for a boycott. The evangelical Christian Focus on the Family, are also protesting about the film.

The Golden Compass is based upon Philip Pullman's novel of the same name and is the first book in his trilogy 'His Dark Material'. The series follows the adventures of a streetwise girl who travels through multiple worlds populated by witches, armor-plated bears, and sinister ecclesiastical assassins, to defeat the oppressive forces of a senile God.

The Halton Catholic District School Board in Ontario, Canada, removed the books from the shelves after complaints from parents. The board is now studying the series to decide whether to remove them permanently. But another Ontario school board, Waterloo, decided not to ban the book. Waterloo Catholic board religion and family life consultant Jonathan Wright, said: "The book is very definitely anti-authoritarian but in terms of how it's presented, it's a fantasy world with a fictionalized church that in no way resembles the one in which we live, even though Pullman borrows a couple of terms."

An ardent atheist, Philip Pullman has made no secret of his anti-religious views, but he has long denied that his books are anti-Catholic. In a 2004 post on his website he wrote that his main quarrel is with the "literalist, fundamentalist nature of absolute power" and "those who pervert and misuse religion, or any other kind of doctrine with a holy book and a priesthood and an apparatus of power that wields unchallengeable authority, in order to dominate and suppress human freedoms."

While some groups are protesting about the film because they consider it anti-Christian, some Pullman fans have complained that the film has watered-down the more anti-religious elements of the plot. William Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights says this could be true, and represents another danger in the film. He warns that children could find the movie so attractive, that they will be 'sucked in' to asking their parents to buy them the books.

The Golden Compass has not been seen by the general public in the UK, and most churches here have not expressed a view yet.

The Scotsman reported yesterday that the Church of Scotland is encouraging members to organise screenings of the film and is bringing out a leaflet to help people discuss topics it raises.

Fr Peter Malone has seen The Golden Compass and we will be publishing his review on 5 December.

LONDON - 30 November 2007 - 320 words

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