Early last year, the ACLU of Eastern Missouri filed a lawsuit charging the Salem Public Library with unconstitutional censorship for blocking internet access to information about minority religions in a case that called on the protections afforded to both religion and speech by the First Amendment. This week, a federal judge ruled that the practice was unconstitutional.
In particular, information about Native American practices and Wicca were blocked because they were classified as “occult” or “criminal” by library filters. At issue was the decision by library director Glenda Wofford to install the blocking software. The ACLU reports that Wofford felt she “had an obligation to report people who wanted to view these sites to the authorities.” Federal Judge E. Richard Webber deemed the practice unconstitutional, ruling that access to material cannot be blocked solely based on personal viewpoint.
The ACLU responded to the decision:
“We are happy to see an end to the library’s discriminatory Internet practices,” said Daniel Mach, director of the ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief. “Public libraries should be maximizing the spread of information, not blocking access to viewpoints or religious ideas not shared by the majority.”