ACLU et al v. North Central Regional Library

The ACLU is getting involved in a lawsuit against a library in Washington because it blocked access to online porn. The ACLU believes that the blocking of porn has infringed upon the 1st Amendment rights of the library users, or specifically, three library users. One is a college student, who says the access was needed for a school assignment, and another is a professional photographer, who wanted to look at art galleries. Nothing was said about the third in the articles that I’ve seen.

Let’s start with the 1st Amendment. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” There is no law being proposed. The library does get public funding, but they’re also required to follow the law. I’m pretty sure that allowing people to look up pornography on the public computers would likely result in children walking by and seeing. (The article, to which I linked, mentions such instances, which occurred in another library, in the tenth paragraph.) Perhaps it doesn’t in Washington, but I would think that such an event would constitute “corruption of a minor.” I would also imagine that if the library didn’t take steps to prevent it, it would be open to suit for damages in court for such an event, if it was pressed.

One of the library’s directors was quoted as saying “We believe having pornography in public places hurts our ability to accomplish our mission.” The library’s website claims “The Mission of the North Central Regional Library is to promote reading and lifelong learning.” I can see a couple of ways that allowing pornography on the public computers could hinder this mission. The first is that parents could start restricting their children’s access to the library in order to prevent them from seeing someone else’s internet usage. Further, potential lawsuits against the library due to the library creating a system that allows children to easily be exposed to pornography could severely limit the library’s budget and ability to function.

I’m all for free speech. I’m not in favor of censorship, even if I object to the material. This is not a case of anybody’s right to say something or assemble has been violated. This is a case where an institution, looking out for its own well-being, stated that certain information cannot be obtained on its premises. A library wouldn’t be sued for not carrying Penthouse (Sorry. No link.) in its periodicals, and it shouldn’t be sued for not allowing access to certain materials.

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