Federal judge: Public library cannot censor pagan websites
A federal judge on Tuesday ordered a public library in Missouri to unblock access to “occult” websites, which included websites about Native American religions and the Wiccan faith.
“We are happy to see an end to the library’s discriminatory Internet practices,” Daniel Mach, director of the ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief, said Wednesday in a statement. “Public libraries should be maximizing the spread of information, not blocking access to viewpoints or religious ideas not shared by the majority.”
The ACLU filed a lawsuit against the Salem Public Library on behalf of Anaka Hunter last year.
According to the lawsuit, Hunter had attempted to research the religions of indigenous American tribes, but discovered many websites were blocked by the library.
Salem Library Director Glenda Wofford told Hunter the websites could only be unblocked if she had a legitimate reason to access them. The library director allegedly also said she had an “obligation” to call the “proper authorities” to report people who wanted to view blocked websites.
U.S. District Judge E. Richard Webber said Tuesday the library could only block websites labelled “adult image,” “pornography,” “phishing,” “proxy anonymizer,” “viruses,” or “web chat.”
The library is required by law to have a filtering system to prevent children from accessing obscene images and other content considered harmful to minors.
“Even libraries that are required by federal law to install filtering software to block certain sexually explicit content should never use software to prevent patrons from learning about different cultures,” Tony Rothert, an attorney for the ACLU of Eastern Missouri, added.
[Censored laptop screen via Shutterstock]