Internet Pornography at the Local Library
 
Internet Pornography at the Local Library
Written By Nathan Cherry   |   11.22.13

Many people think public libraries are obsolete in the age of the Internet, yet libraries remain a valuable asset to any neighborhood. But just imagine taking your kids to your local library on a beautiful, sunny day to find some good books and engage in the other activities offered. You’re hand in hand, discussing what kind of books to borrow when, to your horror, you see…

Someone on one of the library computers is looking at pornography!

This isn’t a scenario out of a parent’s worst nightmare; this is taking place in libraries around the country. A recent case involves a library in Orland Park, Illinois, where residents are now insisting that the library  install filters on public computers to block access to illegal pornography. However, opponents to filtering, which include the American Library Association (ALA), are concerned that such filters violate free speech rights and insert more government into the lives of Americans.

The ALA’s long-held position is that ALL information, regardless of content and age of user, should be available and that it’s a parent’s job, not the library’s, to protect children.

Judith Krug, ALA’s former Director of the Office for Intellectual Freedom said, “I have a real problem when people say, Well I walked by and you should have seen what was on the computer screen. Well, don’t look, sweetie. It’s none of your business. Avert your eyes.” 

The ALA  states on their web site:

The primary responsibility for rearing children rests with parents. If parents want to keep certain ideas or forms of expression away from their children, they must assume the responsibility for shielding those children. Governmental institutions cannot be expected to usurp or interfere with parental obligations and responsibilities when it comes to deciding what a child may read or view.

While some liberals raise First Amendment concerns, we have a right to ask the question of whether tax-funded public computers should be providing illegal porn in view of children on our dime. If the answer to that question is yes, then why don’t we allow strippers to dance on public streets? Why aren’t pornographic movies shown to all ages at movie theaters around the country?

The questions might sound ridiculous, but it’s the venue and location of any sexually explicit material that’s really in debate.

I’m thrilled to see parents insisting Internet filters be installed on the library’s computers located within sight and reach of young kids – the very computers they provide with their their hard-earned tax dollars. In a hyper-sexualized society where children are often caught in the crosshairs of marketers and advertisers, parents must be vigilant in protecting their kids. It appears the concerns of parents are at least causing the public library to reconsider its policy of no filters on the computers.

Providing access to porn on public computers in the library creates a hostile environment for parents seeking to protect their children from that explicit content. It’s bad enough that our public schools are now mandating explicit sex-education beginning in kindergarten. Parents already have a tough enough time guarding their kids from explicit content on television, in movies, music, and on their home computers. The last thing parents need is another venue in which they have to be concerned about sexually explicit content for which their kids might be exposed.

It’s clear that allowing porn on public library computers violates the basic laws established to regulate the porn industry in order to safeguard children.  Most states have Harmful Materials Laws, including Illinois.   An excerpt of Illinois’ law states:

   (b) A person is guilty of distributing harmful material to a minor when he or she: 
        (1) knowingly sells, lends, distributes, exhibits to,

    

depicts to, or gives away to a minor, knowing that the minor is under the age of 18 or failing to exercise reasonable care in ascertaining the person’s true age:

 

            (A) any material which depicts nudity, sexual

        

conduct or sado-masochistic abuse, or which contains explicit and detailed verbal descriptions or narrative accounts of sexual excitement, sexual conduct or sado-masochistic abuse, and which taken as a whole is harmful to minors;

 

Ironically librarians lobbied for an exemption to this law and it was granted to them. Who could conceive that librarians would allow an innocent child to view all forms of deviant graphic sex online?

Anyone who has been addicted or had trouble with porn knows how serious of an issue it is. Some want to downplay the implications and act as if porn is a common place, everyday routine for everyone. Unfortunately that is nearly true and the outcome has been catastrophic, especially for youth. Let’s look at some statistics on porn use in America:

9 out of 10 boys were exposed to porn before age 18.
6 out of 10 girls were exposed to porn before age 18.
28% of 16-17 year olds have been unintentionally exposed to porn online.
15% of boys and 9% of girls have seen child pornography.
32% of boys and 18% of girls have seen bestiality online.
39% of boys and 23% of girls have seen sexual bondage online.
83% of boys and 57% of girls have seen group sex online.
69% of boys and 55% of girls have seen same-sex intercourse online
56% of divorce cases involved one party having an obsessive interest in pornographic websites.

Is it any wonder we live in a society where sex among teens is not merely average and rising, but considered normal and celebrated? The worldwide sex-trafficking industry is growing and we are now realizing that even in America sex-trafficking is a major industry. Pedophilia is on the rise as online porn makers increasingly cater to the “barely legal” crowds. These outcomes are all reality because pornography has become so readily available online. One doesn’t have to go to the red light districts to find it. It’s available in the privacy of one’s home – or provided by your tax dollars in the library.

Providing access to porn on tax-funded computers  is akin to paying for and providing drugs to an addict. There can be no doubt that porn is addictive and many fall victim to this addiction and risk ruining their lives, marriages and families. By providing a public space  to view porn the library has become the “dealer” to those seeking their next “fix.”

A public library should not be a place where parents have to worry about what their kids might see on the computer. It should not be a place that enables the destruction of marriages and families.

The Orland Park battle is heating up as the issue is one of contention with ardent supporters on both sides. And while I am a staunch defender of the First Amendment and heartily believe in the rights enumerated in the U.S. Constitution, at times we must exercise moral common sense.  Illegal pornography, or obscenity, is not protected under the First Amendment.  Nor should it be.  Those that say restricting access to illegal pornography in a public library would certainly not advocate for sex shows on public streets. The reason is that some things, though legally protected for adults, are not permissible in public.

Just as it is not permissible for a couple to engage in sex acts in public, neither should it be legal for a person to access images and videos of people engaging in sex acts on a public computer. There really is no difference.

Hopefully the Orland Park library will comply with the law and see the need and wisdom in installing filters to protect children from being exposed to illegal pornography and keep the library from being a hostile environment. The logical conclusion is to install filters that keep such content from being accidentally or intentionally accessed.

Read more about this situation here and here.

Nathan Cherry
Nathan Cherry is the chief editor and blogger for the Engage Family Minute blog, the official blog of the Family Policy Council of West Virginia. He serves also as the...
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