- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 2, 2003

In a victory for parents seeking to protect their children from pornography, the Supreme Court voted 6-3 last week to uphold a law requiring that public libraries install anti-porn Internet filters as a condition of receiving federal funds. The plurality opinion upholding the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) was written by Chief Justice William Rehnquist on behalf of four of the six justices in the majority — himself and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Sandra Day O’Connor. CIPA, signed into law in 2000, was never permitted to take effect due to a lawsuit filed by the ACLU and the American Library Association (ALA).

Under CIPA and another federal statute, libraries receive $200 million a year in subsidies from Washington. In his ruling, Justice Rehnquist rightly said that requiring libraries to install the filters as a condition for receiving the subsidies is not unconstitutional. “Especially because public libraries have traditionally excluded pornographic material from their other collections, Congress could reasonably impose a parallel limitation on its Internet assistance program,” Justice Rehnquist wrote.

If they insist on retaining access to the pornographic sites, libraries are free to reject the federal dollars. Libraries receiving the subsidies are free to unblock Internet sites if an adult patron requests it. Three justices dissented from the court decision in support of Internet filters: Justices John Paul Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and David Souter.

For years, the ALA has fought tenaciously against any requirement that public libraries install filters, asserting that they amount to unconstitutional censorship. According to the ALA and other opponents of filters, the only appropriate way to protect minor children from X-rated Web sites is for a parent or chaperone to monitor them. As a general rule, of course, parental supervision is the best way to go. But, in the real world, it is impossible for adults to ensure that their children are strictly supervised every time they set foot in the library. And, even when parents can accompany their children, it is no simple task to keep tabs on several children during every second of their library stay.

But the ALA and other liberal ideologues in the library profession were indifferent to those parental concerns. “I am crushed,” said the ALA’s Judith Krug, who claimed the decision would restrict Americans’ ability to learn. Some public library systems, such as those in Los Angeles and San Francisco, have said they will do without federal funds rather than comply with the law requiring them to keep X-rated sites away from children. Meanwhile, the Napa Valley Register reported last week that one of its reporters was able to go a local library, get on the Internet and view images of naked women without any intervention from nosy librarians.

What has happened to the librarian profession in this country? It is indeed a sorry spectacle when at least some librarians think it is more important that their patrons have access to soft-core pornography than the benefits of improved technology that federal dollars could bring. Still, parents can take some solace from last week’s sensible Supreme Court ruling, which gives them a new weapon to protect their children from the pornographers and their enablers at the ALA.

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