ST. LOUIS — The American Civil Liberties Union has sued a small-town public library, claiming it unconstitutionally blocks access to websites related to Wicca and other minority religions.
The lawsuit was filed Tuesday in St. Louis on behalf of Anaka Hunter, a resident of Salem, a largely Christian community of about 5,000 residents in the Missouri Ozarks.
Hunter alleges she was trying to do research at the Salem Public Library but filtering software blocked access to many sites about religions such as Wicca, an earth-based religion, derived from pre-Christian religions and magical practices that promote a peaceful and balanced lifestyle. Hunter was also unable to access sites about Native American Religions.
The suit said some religions were labeled "occult" or even "criminal."
Hunter was doing the research to learn more about her Native American roots through spirituality, the ACLU said. Once access was denied, she complained to the library director, who unblocked some, but not all, information. Hunter also complained to the library board, but the board was dismissive of her concerns, the ACLU said.
Library director Glenda Wofford said it isn't the library's intent to prohibit reasonable use of the Internet for research and other legitimate purposes. She said she would have unblocked websites but Hunter refused to specify which sites she wanted to access, citing privacy rights. Federal law requires public libraries to use filtering software that blocks access to sites with explicit, pornographic and adult content.