The ACLU of Eastern Missouri won a victory for a client yesterday that involved a public library censoring certain content on their computers.
U.S. District Judge E. Richard Webber yesterday ordered the Salem Public Library in Missouri to allow access to websites that contain Wiccan or pagan content. The court determined that the filters that the library was using on their computers were violating the First Amendment.
The ACLU originally brought the case because a resident complained to the library that they couldn’t view the images and a large portion of the content on sites that covered the Wiccan faith and Native American religions. The resident continued to complain to the library board but was unsuccessful in getting the filter lifted. That’s when the ACLU decided to step in.
Libraries in general have usually been on the right side of censorship. They consider themselves champions of free speech and typically are seen trying to fight most forms of censorship. Of course, this stance has actually been taken too far by some libraries. One is example is how the decision to carry Fifty Shades of Grey has caused some headaches for certain libraries.
The court’s judgement yesterday is just another example of how libraries have to walk a fine line when it comes to censorship. Pretty much every court case has determined that libraries are allowed to filter porn on their computers. But in the case of Wiccan and pagan websites, many of the images depict nudity. Most likely the court arrived at their decision due to the fact that Wicca is a religion.
Minority religions can rest easy knowing that their websites will not be filtered at libraries. Unfortunately, this means librarians will not be able to rest until they have a better filtering solution for their computers.