First up from the God Machine this week is a fascinating item out of Missouri that puts a very modern twist on, of all things, a Salem Witch Trial.
The Salem Public Library, located in a small, predominantly Christian community in eastern Missouri, decided it'd be a good idea to block public access to websites related to Wicca on library computers. As Simon Brown explained, the ACLU filed suit, arguing that the library's web filters "prevented access to sites such as the official webpage of the Wiccan Church; the Wikipedia entry for Wicca; Astrology.com; and the Encyclopedia on Death and Dying."
The ACLU's plaintiff, while researching her own heritage, discovered she wasn't even able to access sites related to Native American religions as a result of the policy. A federal judge this week ruled against the library (thanks to my colleague Kent Jones for the tip).
A federal district court has ordered the public library in Salem, Missouri to stop blocking patrons' access to websites relating to minority religions, which web filters had at times apparently classified as "occult" or "criminal," the American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern Missouri announced today. [...]
"Libraries do not have a license to censor viewpoints they disagree with," Tony Rothert, ACLU-EM legal director, tells Daily RFT. "Viewpoint discrimination should not be tolerated."
The decision from Judge Richard Webber, in a case the ACLU brought forward on behalf of Salem resident Anaka Hunter, says that the library is prohibited from having filters that block access to sites beyond basic pornography and virus filters that they can legally maintain.
Some of the library's restrictions against Wicca and other minority faiths had been reversed before the decision was issued, but Judge Webber ordered the library not to restore them going forward.
Brown added, "It's baffling that a government entity thought it was acceptable to take sides on religion and tell people what theological information they can and can't access." It is, indeed. At least this Salem Witch Trial worked out better than the last.
Also from the God Machine this week:
* A brutal scene: "Hundreds of people in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore attacked a Christian neighborhood Saturday and set fire to homes after hearing accusations that a Christian man had committed blasphemy against Islam's prophet, said a police officer."
* Cardinal Keith O'Brien, the UK's most senior Roman Catholic cleric, was forced by the Vatican to resign, and this week, conceded that "there have been times that my sexual conduct has fallen below the standards expected of me as a priest, archbishop and cardinal" (thanks to reader R.P. for the tip).
* A major legal fight is brewing over extending FEMA grants to churches, mosques, synagogues, and other houses of worship damaged by natural disasters.
* A San Diego school teacher is suing a Christian college after she was fired for getting pregnant outside of marriage.
* Imagine fighting a pitched church-state battle. Then imagine doing it when you're a teenager in high school.
* And in a rather ironic twist, the American Family Association's Bryan Fischer argued this week that American secularists are, in his mind, "the American Taliban." Perhaps he's not as familiar with the Taliban as he should be.