UPDATED May 7 AT 4:45 p.m. with comment from library.
ST. LOUIS • A Missouri library has agreed not to censor patrons' internet searches on the Wiccan faith, Native American religions and other spiritual matters, the ACLU said Wednesday.
In the consent judgment, approved Tuesday, the Salem, Mo., Public Library's board agreed not to re-impose filters that blocked the category “occult,” among others. Salem is in Dent County about 100 miles southwest of St. Louis.
That judgment resolves a federal civil suit filed last year by Salem resident Anaka Hunter that claimed that she was prevented from researching Native American spirituality and other faiths.
Hunter's suit also claimed that library director Glenda Wofford refused to unblock all but one page of the sites Hunter wanted to view, and Wofford said “that she had an 'obligation' to call the 'proper authorities' to report those who were attempting to access blocked sites if she thought they would misuse the information they were attempting to access.”
Hunter's concerns were then “brushed off” by the board, the ACLU says.
The judgment says that the sites were not blocked after Aug, 1, 2011, when the library's internet service provider informed them that due to the concerns of some organizations, they were removing some blocks. The change was made before Hunter's suit was filed, the judgment says.
“Even libraries that are required by federal law to install filtering software to block certain sexually explicit content should never use software to prevent patrons from learning about different cultures,” said Tony Rothert, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern Missouri, in a prepared statement.
In a statement Thursday afternoon, library officials said that they were “pleased” with the judgment. They said that the payment of attorney's fees and costs had been an obstacle in settling the case, and that Hunter's agreement to drop her request for the money cleared the way.
They also said that the judgment would change nothing in internet screening practices that they'd changed months before the suit was filed.