The ACLU has filed suit in Eastern Missouri against the Salem Public Library on the basis of the library’s use of web filtering software to prevent the access of websites pertaining to Paganism, Wicca, Native American religion, or the Occult, while still allowing websites that preach against these faiths and practices from a Christian perspective. This isn’t new ground for the ACLU, which, as part of their “Don’t Filter Me” project has been filing similar suits around the country against schools and libraries that block access to LGBT oriented websites, while allowing anti-LGBT websites to be viewed.
Perhaps the most chilling excerpt from the ACLU’s brief on the suit is this:
(library director) Wofford said she would only allow access to blocked sites if she felt patrons had a legitimate reason to view the content and further said that she had an obligation to report people who wanted to view these sites to the authorities.
“…an obligation to report people…” What has become of us when librarians of all people, have been tasked with deciding who has “legitimate” reasons for seeking knowledge and reporting those whose beliefs and interests not suitably conformist? Perhaps I am a romantic, but I envision the librarian as the guardian of the Enlightenment, who encourages inquiry, thought, and the enrichment of all knowledge, not just knowledge that the State has put its stamp of approval on. And for that matter, who are these “authorities” that want to be informed when someone is searching the web for information on minority faiths and practices?
The Wild Hunt blog has been following the issue of web filtering software and Paganism for some time and their excellent collection of reporting on the subject is definitely worth a read.