One of the freedoms we enjoy as Americans is the right to public protest. But with that right comes an expected level of appropriate behavior.
Wednesday evening, a group of individuals from a small, local church abused that right and crossed the line of appropriate protest by scaring young children.
In an effort to send a message about their personal, religious beliefs, these adults came to the Payson Public Library and, in essence, told 50 children they were going to hell for reading storybooks that include witches as some of the characters.
The children faced screaming and yelling adults with bullhorns as they arrived at the library for a book-centered event called "Harry Potter, A Kid's Night Out."
This group told the children they needed to repent and that they were doing the devil's work. They were also given handouts with biblical scriptures about adultery, fornication, drunkenness and witchcraft.
As you can imagine, many of the children were frightened. The pastor defended their actions by saying "I'd rather scare them to heaven than just let them go to hell."
But to say these children are going to hell for reading storybooks with witches and magic is ridiculous. All of us grew up with stories like Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Knights of the Roundtable and The Wizard of Oz.
What's more important, choosing the books a child reads falls under the stewardship of their parents -- not a group of scary strangers led by a pastor who admits he has never read a single page of a Harry Potter book.
Adults have no right to frighten children to make such a statement or for their own self-righteous satisfaction. This group should be ashamed.
The protesters could have met with the library staff to express their concerns. They could have sent a letter to the editor and reached 13,000 readers at once. They could even have picketed the library without setting such an unchristian example for the children which resulted in a response from police.
Finally, we can't think of a time recorded in the Bible when Jesus deliberately frightened children to teach them his gospel. He taught with love -- especially the children.