U.S. District Judge E. Richard Webber ordered the Salem (Mo.) Public Library to allow its patrons access to pagan and Wiccan websites that were originally disallowed by the library's filtering software. The Associated Press reports Webber's decision Tuesday afternoon ends a three-year battle between a patron and the small town's only public library.
* Tony Rothert, the ACLU's attorney, issued a statement to the AP Wednesday. He said, "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."
* Anaka Hunter began researching pagan and Wiccan cultures in 2010 as a way to get in touch with her Native American roots. When the library patron tried to reach websites relating to death and death rituals in minority religions, the library's filtering software blocked her access.
* Salem Public Library director Glenda Wofford declined to comment for the AP story. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Hunter's lawsuit alleges Wofford would only uncensor one page for the patron to view. She then allegedly told Hunter the director had "an 'obligation' to call the 'proper authorities' to report those who were attempting to access blocked sites... ."
* The library's board agreed Tuesday it would not place filters that blocked "occult" websites, among others, as it had done in the past. The same board supposedly wouldn't listen to Hunter's concerns regarding Wofford's behavior in 2010.
* The ACLU states, "Blocking access to material based solely on viewpoint is a violation of the First Amendment." Daniel Mach, director of the ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief, further explained, "Public libraries should be maximizing the spread of information, not blocking access to viewpoints or religious ideas not shared by the majority."
* The consent judgment states the library's filtering software didn't block those websites after Aug. 1, 2011. That was when the organization's Internet service provider told the library some organizations were "concerned" about some blocks imposed by the library. The lawsuit occurred after the websites were unfiltered.
* Court papers also reveal the library supposedly filtered words such as "phishing," "proxy anonymizer," "viruses," "occult" and "criminal skills" in addition to "pornography" and "adult images." MORENet is the library's Internet provider, a company that specializes in providing electronic resources for library patrons across the state.
* The Salem Public Library's mission states it "will be a reliable resource center and an advocate of intellectual freedom for the community by providing free and equal access to information, materials, services, and programs."
* Salem is a town of 5,000 people in south-central Missouri between Fort Leonard Wood and the Mark Twain National Forest. The closest larger city is Rolla, Mo., about 27 miles to the north.
William Browning, a lifelong Missouri resident, writes about local and state issues for the Yahoo! Contributor Network. Born in St. Louis, Browning earned his bachelor's degree in English from the University of Missouri. He currently resides in Branson.
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