By Brendan Sasso - 01/03/12 05:41 PM EST
Hunter said she talked to Salem Library director Glenda Wofford, who unblocked portions of the sites, but much of the material remained censored. According to the lawsuit, Wofford said she would only unblock the sites for patrons who had a legitimate reason to view them and said she had an obligation to report people who accessed the sites to the police.
“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,” Hunter said in the ACLU's news release. “It’s wrong and demeaning to deny access to this kind of information.”
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."
Federal law requires libraries to block explicit or pornographic websites, but the ACLU argues the library violated the First Amendment's protections for freedom of speech and religion by blocking the spiritual websites.
“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,” said Daniel Mach, director of the ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief, in the group's news release. “Public libraries should be facilitating access to educational information, not blocking it.”
The University of Missouri provided the Salem library with the filtering software, according to Wofford.