Roman Catholic groups in North America are calling for a boycott of a new film adaptation of the first in Philip Pullman's fantasy trilogy, 'The Golden Compass', arguing that it is bait to ensnare children in his "atheist agenda''.
ill Donohoe, the president of the Catholic League in the United States, has said that the British author's His Dark Materials books are deeply anti-Christian and promote "atheism for kids''.
He said he feared the film would prompt parents to buy the books, unaware that the third in the series, 'The Amber Spyglass', climaxes in an epic battle to "destroy God''.
The conservative league's call for a boycott of 'The Golden Compass', starring Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig and which had its premiere in London last night, has been taken up by a growing number of Catholic leaders.
The Catholic school board in Ontario has ordered 'Northern Lights', the book on which the film is based, removed from library shelves.
A spokesman for the board conceded that the book, which has been stocked in school libraries since it was published in 1995, had not generated any real controversy until the imminent release of the film, which opens in the US on December 7.
Several other Canadian school boards are considering taking the same action, while in the US, the Philadelphia archdiocese has urged parents not to take their children to see the film. An archdiocese spokesman said the film had "anti-religious themes'' and that Pullman was an "avowed atheist and has said in interviews that his books are about killing God''.
In much the same way that US Christian websites extolled the virtues of children seeing the film version of 'The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe', they are now buzzing with negative speculation about the message of 'The Golden Compass'.
Pullman's supporters say his books are actually very theological and even Christian in that theology.
At the weekend, Craig and the film's director, Chris Weitz, came to Pullman's defence, claiming that the books were not anti-religious or anti-Catholic and were against the abuse of religion.