At the local level, community response to the case was fairly limited. Dr. Eikholdt comments on the small crowd at the local board hearing in our interview with her:
O: Do you remember, was there a big community outpour for this case? Did you remember it being pretty crowded, or was it just kinda the people that were directly involved that were there?
E: It feels like mostly it was just the people who were directly involved, like I said. There was a small audience, but it was in a room there wouldn’t have been… so again Gwinnett County may have intentionally kept it on the downlow, to kinda underplay it, I don’t know. I mean there was definitely an audience, because she, not only the woman who said the thing about the poste,r but then she had a couple other witnesses stand up for her. And then of course there was the panel that I was on, but it wasn’t really big, no.
While it is possible that the school district attempted to hide the case from the general public, the religious demographics of Gwinnett County likely play a much larger factor in the community’s limited reaction to the Mallory case:
Religious Demographics of Gwinnett County
The Association of Religion Data Archives (ARDA) compiles religion census data from participating groups to provide reports on local, national, and international membership. Their most recently gathered data comes from the 2010 religion census and includes information on the members and adherents (anyone who regularly attends service) of 236 participating religious groups. According to the 2010 County Membership Report for Gwinnett County, “the adherent totals of the religious groups listed above (366,708) included 45.5% of the total population,” which totaled 805,321. About half of the recorded population, therefore, regularly attended religious service in 2010. Of these 366,708 adherents, 195,348 were Evangelical Protestants, the same denomination as Laura Mallory. Evangelicals made up the second largest religious membership in the county, after unclaimed adherents.
Views on Possession
While members of the same religious organization or belief system are not guaranteed to share the same views, there is often some overlap, including views on spirituality/possession. Wave II of the Baylor Religion Survey, a national study conducted in 2007, provides some insight into this connection in a broader sense. When asked “It is possible for people to be possessed by the Devil/demons?” 32% of participants answered “Agree” and 21.3% answered “Strongly Agree,” for a total of 53.3% of participants believing demonic possession is possible. This same concept appears directly in the Mallory trial:
E: So she stands up and says “Yes, I have a comment. Harry Potter is, you know, the work of the devil, and it possesses spirits.” And she said “My son was in the classroom,” In a third grade classroom in some school in Gwinnett County, and the teacher had the poster of Harry Potter in her room. And she said “He was terrible, he was misbehaved, so I had all these meetings with the teacher, and he couldn’t behave, and he couldn’t do well in her class.” So I think, now, this is the part I don’t know. I think she asked the teacher to take down the poster and the teacher refused or whatever, but she demanded that her child be moved or put in another school or, I don’t know, it’s foggy with me on that part. But she moved him to a different classroom, and when he was out of the room with the poster, he was fine. And she said it was because the poster possessed him.
[Excerpt from Interview with Lisa Eickholdt]
Based on these responses, we can see that the connection between religious participation and belief in demonic possession is not unheard of. Combined with the significant percentage of Gwinnett County members affiliated with religious groups listed in the 2010 ARDA County Membership Report, it’s safe to say that the idea of materials being associated with the devil/demons is common enough in the area not to raise much shock. Along with Gwinnett County keeping the case quiet intentionally, this lack of reaction to the concept of possession is also a likely reason why local response to the Harry Potter case was fairly minimal.
Baylor University. 2007. The Baylor Religion Survey, Wave II. Waco, TX: Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion.
2010 U.S. Religion Census: Religious Congregations & Membership Study. Collected by the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies (ASARB), distributed by the Association of Religion Data Archives. http://www.thearda.com/RCMS2010/RCMS_Notes.asp#Q3. Accessed 28 April, 2019.