Hunter v. Salem Public Library Board of Trustees

January 3, 2012

The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Eastern Missouri have filed a lawsuit charging the Salem Public Library and its board of trustees with unconstitutionally blocking access to websites discussing minority religions by improperly classifying them as “occult” or “criminal.”

Salem resident Anaka Hunter contacted the ACLU after she was unable to access websites pertaining to Native American religions or the Wiccan faith for her own research. After protesting to the library director, Glenda Wofford, portions of the sites were unblocked, but much remained censored. Wofford said she would only allow access to blocked sites if she felt patrons had a legitimate reason to view the content and further said that she had an obligation to report people who wanted to view these sites to the authorities.

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Other sites blocked by the library’s Netsweeper software include the official webpage of the Wiccan church, the Wikipedia entry pertaining to Wicca, Astrology.com and The Encyclopedia on Death and Dying, which contains viewpoint-neutral discussions of various cultures’ and religions’ ideas of death and death rituals.

Status: In a consent judgment signed March 5, a federal district court-ordered the Salem Public Library to stop blocking patrons' access to websites related to minority religions that the library's web filters classifed as "occult" or "criminal".

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