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Wiccan/Neopagan news in the media

Year 2012

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Wiccan news for 2012

2012-JAN-03: MO: Missouri library blocks access to Wiccan websites: Normally, public libraries in the U.S. are at the forefront in opposing censorship. However, the public library in Salem, MO blocked access to websites when a local resident, Anaka Hunter, tried to conduct personal research into Wicca, Native American spirituality, and astrology. The location is ironic, because it was in Salem, MA centuries ago that over twenty persons were executed by hanging and one man was pressed to death because they were suspected of being witches.

The blocking was done automatically by Internet filtering software that Salem Library had installed in its computers that provide public access to the Internet. The software allegedly labeled the sites as "occult" and "criminal."

The library director, Glenda Wofford, gave Anaka partial access to the websites, but much of the material remained censored. The lawsuit states that Wofford would only unblock the sites for patrons who had a legitimate reason to view them. She also said that she had an obligation to report anyone who accessed the sites to the police.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern Missouri (ACLU has sued the library. Anaka Hunter said in the ACLU's news release:

"It’s unbelievable that I should have to justify why I want to access completely harmless websites on the Internet simply because they discuss a minority viewpoint. It’s wrong and demeaning to deny access to this kind of information."

Brendan Sasso of The Hill reported:

"Wofford told The Hill she would have been happy to unblock the websites but Hunter refused to specify which sites she wanted to access, saying it would be a breach of privacy."

" 'It's not our intent to prohibit reasonable use of the Internet for research or any other legitimate reason,'Wofford said." 

" 'All they have to do is ask, and we'll unblock the sites'."

Wofford gave no defense for her policy of informing police of her client's choice of Internet sites, which would have had a cooling effect on the clients free access to information.

Federal law requires that libraries block access to websites that feature child or adult pornography. However, the ACLU argues that the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution requires libraries to give free access to all other sites.

Daniel Mach, director of the ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief, wrote in the ACLU news release:

"The library has no business blocking these websites as ‘occult’ or ‘criminal’ in the first place and certainly shouldn’t be making arbitrary follow-up decisions based on the personal predilections of library staff. Public libraries should be facilitating access to educational information, not blocking it." 1,2

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2012-JAN-19: NC: Board of Education discriminates against Wiccans while favoring Christians:

The Windy Ridge Intermediate School of the Buncombe County Board of Education received several cartons of Bibles from the Gideons International. The staff allowed students to pick up a copy. GingerStrivelli, a Wiccan, has a 12-year-old son at the school and was concerned about the school's practice. She said that:

"Schools should not be giving out one religion's materials and not others." 1

She said that the school principal assured her that the school would accept donations of religious texts by any group and make them available to students. However, when she brought some Wiccan books to the school, she was turned away.

The School District issued a statement saying that:

"Buncombe County School officials are currently reviewing relevant policies and practices with school board attorneys. During this review period, no school in the system will be accepting donations of materials that could be viewed as advocating a particular religion or belief." 3

Michael Broyde, a professor and senior fellow at Emory University's Center for the Study of Law and Religion said.

"You can either open your public school up to all religious material, or you can say no religious material. You can't say, You can distribute religious material, but only from the good mainstream faiths. ... America runs a grand, noble experiment in religious diversity without violence. There's no killing of the Jews. There's no Catholic-Protestant violence. We are very successful in this grand experiment." 3

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Reference:

  1. Brendan Sasso, "ACLU sues library for blocking Wiccan websites," The Hill, 2012-JAN-03, at: http://thehill.com/
  2. Text of "Anaka Hunter v. city of Salem, Missouri et al.," ACLU, at:http://www.aclu.org/
  3. Jonathan Serrie, "Pagan mom challenges Bible giveaway at North Carolina school," Fox News, 2012-JAN-19, at: http://www.foxnews.com/

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Copyright 2012 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.
Originally published: 2012-JAN-06
Latest update: 2012-JAN-20
Author: B.A. Robinson

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