- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 19, 2012

Wenatchee, Wash., famous for apples and wine, may become famous in the culture wars as well. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) just took it on the chin there over its ongoing campaign to force public libraries to accommodate perverts in raincoats.

On April 11, Judge Edward F. Shea of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington upheld the local library system’s computer filter policy, dismissing a motion filed by the ACLU to turn off the filter.

The ruling in Bradburn v. North Central Regional Library District was based on the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA), a law Congress passed in 2000 and the U.S. Supreme Court upheld in 2003 that requires libraries receiving federal funds to deny access to obscenity and child pornography.

According to the decision, the North Central Regional Library District’s 28 branches employ a system that filters out sites that depict hacking, phishing, malware, spyware, nudity, sexual material, proxy avoidance and gambling sites.

Because some of the blocked material is constitutionally protected, the library unblocks materials upon request but reserves the right to refuse if the material violates CIPA.

On June 7, 2010, the Washington Supreme Court ruled that under the state constitution, libraries may employ filters, unblocking certain sites upon request without taking down the entire filter. Citing this, Judge Shea wrote that the library district’s decision not to unblock certain sites does not violate the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Bucking the ACLU’s ever-expansive notion of the First Amendment, the judge made the common-sense observation that libraries are under no obligation to provide every single piece of information available and must discriminate when selecting materials.

Quoting the earlier state Supreme Court decision, Judge Shea wrote, “A library’s ‘need to exercise judgment in making collection decisions depends [also] on its traditional role in identifying suitable and worthwhile material; [and] it is no less entitled to play that role when it collects material from the Internet than when it collects material from any other source.’

“Given the vast, ever-changing, and almost unlimited amount of information available on the Internet, the Supreme Court recognized that ‘libraries cannot possibly segregate, item by item, all the Internet material that is appropriate for inclusion from all that is not.’ Accordingly, NCRL is required to evaluate its patrons’ Internet access based on the speech’s content. Therefore, the court subjects NCRL’s filtering process to rational review.”

Ruling that the libraries had a rational reason for the policy, the judge further noted that “NCRL’s libraries are relatively small in size and only one has a partition separating the children’s portion of the library from the remainder of the library. Blocking Internet sites and pages that contain constitutionally-protected material deemed suitable only for adults helps ensure that the environment at NCRL libraries is consistent with its mission of providing learning and research opportunities for individuals of all ages.”

In other words, inconveniencing some adults is a small price to pay for protecting children from exposure to obscenity. And, we might add, to creepy men who want to access such materials.

“NCRL’s practice of requiring a patron to request that a particular website or page be unblocked is an efficient and [rational] way for NCRL to determine whether that website or page is consistent with its policies and mission, especially in light of the Internet’s continuous change,” the judge wrote.

“NCRL simply does not have the resources to have its staff review the vast and limitless amount of sites and pages on the Internet to determine whether they are consistent with its policies and mission.”

The ACLU responded, “Hey, that’s your problem. The important thing is to keep obscenity flowing through a public library, including the children’s section, without any speed bumps!”

For the record, it didn’t actually say that. I’m just trying out a new mind-reading technique I learned on the back of a strip-club matchbook dropped by an ACLU lawyer.

Story Continues →