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September 23, 2002

Office of the President
Steven W. Fitschen

America’s libraries should be a safe haven for our children.
But now some of these libraries have sued to force the federal
government to give them money to provide pornography over
the Internet! We must stop them!

Dear Friend:

I can remember a time when libraries were children-friendly.

You could go to the library and trust that your children would have a wonderful experience in a pleasant, safe environment.

In fact, I still tend to think of libraries this way . . . and maybe you do too. After all, most of the librarians I meet seem to be wonderful people who genuinely enjoy working with children.

So you can imagine my surprise—and outrage—when I learned that one of our local library systems had sued the federal government to allow it to provide Internet access to pornography!

And then I learned that a lot of other libraries and library associations are doing the same thing. That’s when I knew I must write to ask for your help!

What in the world is going on here? Are all of these nice, pleasant-acting librarians actually secret pornographers? No, of course not! In fact some librarians have quit their jobs rather than be exposed to pornography themselves!

The problem is not with the people who work at the libraries—it’s with the people who control the libraries . . . and with their liberal agenda.

You can probably guess what they say about those of us who oppose pornography. CENSORS . . . that’s what they call us.

So now folks like you and me—who want to protect our children and grandchildren—are painted as the villains, and those who want to ensure unlimited access to the vilest pornographic materials see themselves as heroes.

Let me tell you about this case and about how you can help.

The federal government provides money to local libraries to provide Internet access to the general public. However, the government was worried about sex offenders accessing pornography at libraries. They were also worried that children—especially teenagers—might use library computers to access pornography without their parents’ knowledge. Also, they were concerned about young children—and adults for that matter—inadvertently seeing pornographic images displayed on the screens of other users.

For once the federal government seemed to have the proper concerns. So they said if you want our money—really the money from your taxes and mine—all you have to do is put on a filter that will block pornography.

So what happened? Libraries from all across the nation sued. They want the federal money but they don’t want to block the pornography. They think it’s a library’s job to provide pornography!

And what about the danger to the children? They don’t care!

The libraries have already won in federal district court. During the trial, the government put on evidence that patrons had committed public sex acts and had assaulted library patrons and staff after viewing pornography on library computers. It put on evidence of patrons accessing child pornography. But none of the libraries dropped out of the case after that evidence!

So WE must stop them.

The law asks the libraries to filter only visual depictions that are obscene, that constitute child pornography, or in the case of minors, material that is harmful to minors—which is described in graphic sexual detail in the law. And on top of that, the law says that if a patron identifies a site that should not be filtered, the library can go ahead and give access to the patron.

That sounds reasonable to me and it probably does to you too.

But, that’s not good enough for the libraries.

To be fair, no library said, "We want children to come here to get pornography." BUT WHAT THEY DID SAY WAS JUST AS REPREHENSIBLE. They argued in court that libraries should be allowed to let adults come in and view any and all material that you and I and anyone with commonsense would call pornography . . . as long as it does not violate a narrow legal definition of "illegal" pornography. In other words, it can be vile and disgusting but as long as it’s not TECHNICALLY ILLEGAL, we WANT to provide it. And they argued that no matter how vile and disgusting it is, they WANT to offer it to children as long as it’s not LEGALLY "harmful to minors." And then to make matters worse, they argued that IF CHILDREN ARE EXPOSED TO THIS STUFF OR IF PEOPLE GET ASSAULTED, THAT’S NO REASON TO MAKE US USE FILTERS.

And obviously they felt strongly enough about their right to offer pornography—and they did call it a right—that they were willing to sue over it.

And now this case has gone straight to the United States Supreme Court . . . bypassing the federal Court of Appeals. Our brief is already in the works and we need your immediate help to protect our children.

This case is very simple in terms of common sense. If libraries are going to use our tax dollars to provide Internet access to the public, then they should use filters to protect patrons—especially children—from the dangers of pornography and child molesters.

Unfortunately, this case is very complicated legally. The trail court’s opinion was 95 pages long!

We have been going through this opinion with a fine-toothed comb, looking for every possible error the trial court made. We are coordinating our efforts with the Justice Department

. . . which will argue the case at the Supreme Court. Our brief is already under way and yet we have hundreds of hours of research, writing, and editing to go. We must keep our libraries safe!

I know I can count on your prayers and your financial support to help protect our children and grandchildren.

Together we can keep our libraries the way they should be—a safe, wholesome environment for children . . . and for ourselves.

For the children,

stevesig.jpg (12443 bytes)

Steven W. Fitschen

P.S.   Please be sure to look at the list on the next page of libraries and library associations that are part of this lawsuit. And remember, even if your library is not on the list, if these libraries win this case, then the federal government will not be allowed to require filters in any library in America!

P.P.S. We really need to hire one additional clerk at this time. Not only do we have this incredibly important and complicated brief to work on, we also see no end in sight to the increased number of requests for legal assistance. And as I have written to you lately, we are defending marriage in three states and gearing up for major battles with the atheist Michael Newdow over the Pledge of Allegiance and other Establishment Clause issues. Your gift today will enable us to add this desperately needed clerk to our staff!



Library Associations of which your library could be a member:

American Library Association
Alaska Library Association
California Library Association
Connecticut Library Association
Freedom to Read Foundation
Maine Library Association
New England Library Association
New York Library Association
Wisconsin Library Association

Individual library systems (and how much federal money they have received or applied for according to the trial court):

Fort Vancouver Regional Library District, in southwest Washington state—$154,500
Multnomah County Public Library, in Multnomah County, Oregon—$170,000
Norfolk Public Library System, in Norfolk, Virginia—$290,000
Santa Cruz Public Library Joint Powers Authority, in Santa Cruz, California—$20,560
South Central Library System in the Madison, Wisconsin area—$3,000-$5,000
Westchester Library System, in Westchester County, New York—not stated




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© 2006 by the National Legal Foundation & Minuteman Institute