Modern Day Salem Witch Trial

This topic is a little different for me.  It has nothing to do with movies or comic books or T.V. shows or anything of the like.  But, I feel it is an important topic, which deserves discussion and intelligent debate.

Here’s the deal: in Salem, Missouri, my wife’s home town, a lady named Anaka Hunter went to the library to research her Native American heritage, particularly, Native American spirituality.  Every website dealing with the topic was blocked by the library’s filtering software.  A puzzled Ms. Hunter went to Glenda Wofford, library director, and asked her why she couldn’t access the information she was looking for.  She was told that the sites she requested, as well as any sites dealing with Wicca, paganism, astrology, etc. were blocked for being “occult” and promoting “criminal skills.”

Under Missouri law, libraries are required to have such filtering software on their computers to prevent baby-touching perverts from accessing child porn on the computers.  Some libraries choose to filter out other content, as well.  Ms. Wofford told Ms. Hunter that she could unlock certain web pages if they are to be used for school projects and the like.  She proceeded to make more information available for Ms. Hunter: one page of one website.

When Ms. Hunter protested the classification of Native American spirituality as “occult” and “criminal skills,” she was informed by Ms. Wofford that she was required to notify the “proper authorities” if anyone tried to access sites blocked by the software, if she thought the information was to be misused.  Ms. Hunter interpreted her statement to mean that Ms. Wofford was going to call the police, and stopped trying to do her research at the Salem Public Library.

Ms. Hunter brought the issue up at a library board meeting in November 2010, but nothing was done.  According to Tony Rothert, one of the ACLU lawyers who filed a lawsuit on Hunter’s behalf, “They listened to her, but they made no changes… they didn’t give a reason. They just said, ‘Are you done?'”

According to the River Front Times out of St. Louis,

Interestingly, although patrons of the Salem library can’t access sites such as All About Spirituality, The Church and School of Wicca or even the Wikipedia entry on Wicca, they can look up paganism in The Catholic Encyclopedia and “Astrology and Horoscopes: The Bible and Christian View.”

“It violates the establishment clause [in the First Amendment],” Rothert explains. “You can learn what the Catholic Church thinks of paganism, but if you want the pagan view of paganism, it’s blocked. It gives preferential treatment to some religions. Any example of a minority religion discussed in a positive way has been blocked.”

Rothert had hoped that the matter could be settled without a lawsuit, but Wofford and the library remained inflexible and declined to give an explanation for blocking Hunter’s web search.

“It’s a new age of book banning,” he says.

Normally, I don’t wear my spirituality (or lack thereof) on my sleeve.  I was raised a fundamental Baptist, but after a lot of soul searching and, honestly, logical thinking, I realized that religion is not the answer.  Rather science, logic, and hard evidence provide all of the answers I need.  The fact that some people not only force their religious views onto others, but they also make sure that everything you do has to fit into their religious views, bothers me.  Bothers the hell out of me, not to put too fine a point on it.

Why?  Because no one should be forced to believe the same as anyone else.  Christianity teaches us that God gave us free will.  It also teaches us that God will punish you for an eternity for not using your free will to accept Him or His son.  They say the Bible is infallible.  I see a pretty big fallacy there.

I’m not going to sit here and tell you to believe what I believe.  I’m also not going to say you’re condemned to hell if you don’t think the same as me.  No one should have to view the world through a religious filter.  I’ve been there.  I know.  When I left the sheltered world of my parents’ extremely religious household and Bible college, it was a shock to me.  People didn’t act as they should have.  People didn’t speak as they should have.  Things didn’t go the way they should have.  I found that praying didn’t work; that I felt as though I was talking to a wall.

Frankly, I found that if God was real, and if He was actually there, He didn’t give two shits about me.  I gave my life to Him.  “Who cares?” is how He would have responded.

Maybe Agent Mulder was right. “He’s just reading the box scores.”

Maybe George Carlin, Bill Maher, Albert Einstein, and the founding fathers (look it up) are right: He isn’t real.  He’s only real in our heads.

But, that isn’t the issue.  The issue is this: should someone be denied information on their heritage and the spiritual beliefs of their culture, because someone personally disagrees with said culture’s religious views?  No.  And it definitely is not a public library’s job to censor information.  The library exists to provide information.  It exists as a place to go to find out about our culture and heritage.

It is not a publicly funded arm of the Church.  It should not act as such.

Source: River Front Times

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2 Responses to “Modern Day Salem Witch Trial”

  1. Now available in Salem, Missouri!…

    News today that a Federal Judge has ordered the town library of Salem, Mo., to un-censor pagan and wiccan websites. This comes after a pagan lady attempted to use the public terminals to research death and death rituals in minority religions but was pr…

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