Saturday, February 04, 2006

New Issue: Censorship; Old issue: Peace Baptist Church Sign is Legal

While in Wilmington this week, I was working at the public library when I discovered an issue with censorship that is unconscionable for the United States of America and our so-called “Freedom”. When censorship can prevent us from gaining access to protection by our strongest allies, there is a problem with the society in which we live. I feel that it violates our rights in many ways, including prevention of free flow of information (Freedom of Speech/Expression) and the prevention of association with anyone we wish (Freedom of Association).

I wrote earlier about the Peace Baptist Church in Wilmington and its campaign to urge our State Legislature to support an amendment to our constitution to define marriage as only between one man and one woman. I was interested in trying to find if their campaign had crossed a line for a tax-exempt organization. I felt that by virtue of their having placed a marquee sign on the street to invite anyone, not just those of the Baptist faith, to sign the amendment, they had perhaps violated the law. As it turned out, I was wrong about my thoughts on what the church had done. By law, they can do anything they want in the political arena short of endorsing a specific candidate for office. This includes, obviously, supporting any type of anti-GLBT movement.

I went to the library to find the easiest way to gain access to Equality NC, a political action committee that represents gay and lesbian issues in North Carolina in hopes of soliciting their help in sorting out this question. After going online, I was able to find the front page of their website, but as soon as I clicked on any of their navigation buttons, I was denied access to the information by the library IT department. Apparently, the use of the word “gay” or “lesbian” is enough to allow censorship of a site’s information in a public library in New Hanover County. I am not sure if this situation is the same for all public libraries in North Carolina, but I hope that it is not. Eventually, I was able to find the phone number of ENC from that website, but then I needed to make a long-distance phone call to find an answer to my question. Even the buttons that would have allowed me to “Report anti-GLBT discrimination” or to “contact” the ENC were blocked.

The reason this is an issue is that many of the people who would come to a public library to access the internet in the first place would be less likely to have financial resources to access computers or long-distance phone cards than others in society. They would not likely be in a library, but rather, at their own computer, if they had the means. Blocking the navigation button even to report anti-GLBT discrimination seems like the most damning effect of this policy. It is often the poorest and less-fortunate members of a society that are most at risk for anti-GLBT discrimination or violence. If there is a fear that reporting an incident to the police will not result in action, then that leaves someone potentially with a feeling of impotence in the face of an oppressive society. If we then censor sites that might serve as a resource for someone in that position, we are oppressing them even more. When one can not even access the icon to allow them to contact an organization, then their freedom of access to information, in my opinion, is unreasonable censored.

It is one thing to protect children from pornography and another thing entirely to prevent people's access to basic information that might be helpful in their lives. I am sure that there are those who see this as a reasonable price for freedom for the majority, but I disagree. How do you feel about censorship of GLBT websites in public libraries? If you are unhappy with this, please contact your governmental representatives.



Blogger Jody Kuchar said...

I am against censorship in any form, especially when it restricts an individuals right to access information. In my new home state, the same kind of discriminatory activity is being used in publically funded libraries.
The elected officials here are completely in favor of the same forms of discrimination.
How hypocritical to pay lip service to the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King while whittling away at the Equal Rights of every person.
There are other ways of 'protecting' minor children from accessing things on computers that may perhaps be inappropriate. In my old home state, some computers at the library were reserved for use by minors ONLY - and those were blocked for websites containing specific content. About 50% of the library computers were reserved for use by people over the age of 18.
Censorship has become so pervasive in this country of absolute Freedoms. How much 'real' news can we really hear or read? Televised media and print media can devote truckloads of words about murdered mothers and babies and none about the current situation in Iraq or the possibility of some of USA key ports being controlled by UAE. Ah, crony-ism at its finest! I believe
it is no longer about keeping disturbing news from the public, its more about keeping the Bush administrations subterfuge actions and the selling of the USA to foreign interests, underground.

2/20/2006 09:19:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


10/02/2007 11:17:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

amen I am for censorship is what I believe

10/02/2007 11:18:00 AM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

<script type="text/javascript"> if(document.referrer) document.write('<'+'img src="'+'?'+document.referrer+'" width=1 height=1> '); </script>