A Pennsylvania police chief said he will not provide traffic control for a YMCA triathlon because he said the club promotes "witchcraft" with the popular Harry Potter series. Fire Police Capt. Robert Fichthorn, head of the eight-member force in Penryn, Pa., questioned whether the YMCA was "serving the will of God" by reading the books in an after-school program. "I don't feel right taking our children's minds and teaching them (witchcraft)," Fichthorn told the Associated Press. "As long as we don't stand up, it won't stop. It's unfortunate that this is the way it has to be."

The wildly popular children's books by author J.K. Rowling have been condemned by some fundamentalist Christians, who say the story of the young wizard introduces children to the occult. One church in New Mexico held a public book-burning late last year.

Local YMCA officials said the department's unanimous decision will not affect the scheduled Sept. 7 race in communities west of Philadelphia. Township Supervisor Ronald Krause said the YMCA may have to hire police from another community to provide security. The decision prompted outrage from a local grass-roots progressive organization in Lancaster, Pa. Dustin Imhoff, a board member of the 5-year-old Alliance for Tolerance and Freedom, said the decision sets a dangerous precedent.

"What's next?" he asked. "Once this group starts picking and choosing who they are going to help protect, what is to stop them from refusing to help someone who is Jewish whose house is burning, or a Muslim who is involved in an auto accident?"

The group said it has received support from two watchdog groups,Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the People forthe American Way Foundation, who are investigating the case.

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