Salem Library Told to Stop Wiccan Censorship: "We Are Pleased This Matter is Behind Us"

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Image from a Wicca page the Salem Public Library initially blocked. - VIA WIKIPEDIA
  • via Wikipedia
  • Image from a Wicca page the Salem Public Library initially blocked.

Public library officials in Salem are pleased with a court order against them this week that says they cannot block Wiccan and Native American websites -- after the American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern Missouri accused them of refusing to allow a patron to conduct online research on certain religions.

"We are pleased this matter is behind us and that the public library and its employees can again focus its resources and revenues solely to the purpose of serving its patrons," Glenda Wofford, director of the library, says in a statement sent to Daily RFT.

After the ACLU promoted the court decision this week, the library responded with a fairly lengthy statement -- that does little to address the fight over free speech and censorship.

As we reported on Wednesday, the court's order from Judge Richard Webber, says that the library is not allowed to maintain any sort of Internet filters that block access to sties, other than the basic pornography and virus filters.

The woman who brought the case forward with the ACLU, Anaka Hunter, a Salem resident, claimed that she protested to Wofford about blocked access to websites about Native American religions and Wiccan faith -- and that while some were unblocked, much was still censored.

Screengrab from another site that the library had reportedly banned. - VIA WICCA.ORG
  • via wicca.org
  • Screengrab from another site that the library had reportedly banned.

"Wofford said she would only allow access to blocked sites if she felt patrons had a legitimate reason to view the content and added that she had an obligation to report people who wanted to view these sites to the authorities," the ACLU says. "The resident's attempts to complain about the policy to the library board of trustees were brushed off."

The library, however, in its new statement, argues that the decision "requires the library to do nothing different than it had been doing for several months prior to the time Anaka Hunter filed her unnecessary lawsuit."

The library has also focused its attention on questions of whether the library would have to pay attorney's fees and costs associated with the action -- noting that her lawyers dropped this request, which the library says held up this case for several months.

The official judgment, on view below, does note that changes were made prior to the filing of the lawsuit, such that patrons did have access to the websites in question in the litigation. Still, the order makes clear that the library cannot ban these sites or reactivate the filters that started the whole controversy.

"The Salem Public Library and its Director were very pleased with the court's judgment," the library says in its statement. "By agreeing to the consent judgment, the Salem Public Library does nothing more than agree to continue to use the new updated categories recommended by its service provider and adopted by the library before the suit was filed."

Continue for the full statement and judge's order.

Here's the statement.

SALEM LIBRARY, DIRECTOR, PLEASED WITH RESOLUTION OF LAW SUIT

On March 4, 2013, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri entered a consent judgment in the lawsuit previously filed by Anaka Hunter against the Salem Public Library and its Director. The Salem Public Library and its Director were very pleased with the court's judgment. It requires the library to do nothing different than it had been doing for several months prior to the time Anaka Hunter filed her unnecessary lawsuit.

The library is particularly pleased that by consenting to the judgment, Anaka Hunter and her lawyers finally dropped their request that the library pay attorney's fees and costs associated with the action. The demand that such fees be paid by the library is the obstacle that held up final resolution of the case for the last several months.

Under the judgment, the library will continue to use the same internet screening provider it has used for many years. This is the same internet screening service provider as ninety percent of public libraries in Missouri. Months prior to the time the lawsuit was filed, the provider used by the library made changes in its minimal screening categories which the Salem Public Library and many other libraries in the state adopted. By agreeing to the consent judgment, the Salem Public Library does nothing more than agree to continue to use the new updated categories recommended by its service provider and adopted by the library before the suit was filed.

The library is pleased that it held firm and refused to reimburse plaintiff and her lawyers for fees and expenses associated with this unnecessary lawsuit. "We are pleased this matter is behind us and that the public library and its employees can again focus its resources and revenues solely to the purpose of serving its patrons," said Glenda Wofford, director of the library. The consent judgment allows the library to keep up its good work for its patrons and continue the fine balance of the public interest in open access to information with the library's legal obligation under the Children's Internet Protection Act.

And the judge's order.

Salem Consent Judgment

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