Tag Archives: ACLU

Satanists Unveil Oklahoma Monument

Satanist Monument

So, for those of who who haven’t been following this story, a Satanic Temple based in New York has applied for a permit to erect a monument at the Oklahoma state capitol building, arguing that if the state can install a monument to the 10 Commandments, then it’s basically open season for other faiths to erect statues of their own. It’s not like they are the only ones — a Hindu group and the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster have also gotten in on it.

Anyhow, the temple unveiled the design for its monument this week, depicted above. The temple’s spokesman, Lucien Graves, explained that the monument “will also have a functional purpose as a chair where people of all ages may sit on the lap of Satan for inspiration and contemplation.”

Which, you know, fair enough. I’m not sure the statue of a seated Baphomet is any different from any other deity, when you get right down to it. Some people see God (especially Old Testament God) as a pretty scary dude, and others see Satan as a positive force — or at least one much less negative than he’s made out to be in Christian theology. It’s a matter of perspective. And in this instance, what the temple is trying to do — aside from make a point — is suggest that the Christian perspective isn’t the only valid one, especially not on taxpayer-funded property.

What do you think? Should the monuments — all of them — be built? Why or why not?

ACLU sues library for filtering “occult” Web sites

Netsweeper, used in schools and libraries, filters out Web content related to Wicca or Native American faiths.

Anaka Hunter, a resident of Salem, Missouri, went to her local public library and attempted to do some Internet research about Native American spiritualities. She was astounded when she found that Web sites with that kind of content were blocked by the Internet-filtering software used by the library, Netsweeper.

When Hunter complained to the head librarian, she was told that the library had no control over what ideas were blocked by Netsweeper. She complained to the library’s board of directors, but they blew her off. So she took it to the American Civil Liberties Union, which is now suing the city of Salem, the city’s library system, and the library board.

All three are being charged with “unconstitutionally blocking access to websites discussing minority religions by improperly classifying them as ‘occult’ or ‘criminal,'” according to the ACLU.

As I’ve mentioned before, net-filtering software is notorious for trying to make minority faiths of all kinds invisible. Earlier this year, Gainesville students complained when they discovered they couldn’t look up information on Falun Dafa/Falun Gong. I figured it wouldn’t be long before the ACLU got involved.

Interestingly, Jason Pitzl-Waters at The Wild Hunt points out that ‘net-filtering software can trace its origins to the Christian market. This selfsame software was then sold to schools, libraries, and other publicly funded agencies — where such discrimination is much more of a sticky wicket.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out. In the meantime, readers, how would you feel if your religious beliefs were blacked out by Internet-filtering software used in schools, libraries, etc.? Are there any such religions you think should be made invisible to the kids and adults using public terminals?

High schools illegally blocking students’ access

Children practice meditation as part of Falun Dafa. So why can’t high schoolers in Gainesville see Falun Dafa web sites? Picture by Flickr user longtrekhome.

You may not be familiar with Falun Dafa, the Chinese-based system of rituals and practices, though you may know it by the name Falun Gong. By either name, high schoolers in Gainesville, Florida were unable to look up information about these beliefs because they were blacklisted by their schools’ Internet filtering software.

Why? Because the word “occult” is blocked, and these practices are sometimes described that way.

Last I checked, the First Amendment still prevented government agencies (which includes schools) from restricting religious freedom or showing preference for one religion (or non-religion) over another.

It turns out the ACLU has jumped into the fray on cases like this in the past — mainly where schools were filtering out search results related to LGBTQ queries. According to their site:

Blocking all LGBT content violates students’ First Amendment rights to free speech. They also violate the Equal Access Act, which requires equal access to school resources for all extracurricular clubs, including gay-straight alliances and LGBT support groups. Some schools have even configured their web filters to block access to websites for positive LGBT rights organizations, but still allow access to anti-LGBT sites that condemn LGBT people or urge us to try to change our sexual orientation. This is called viewpoint discrimination, and it’s also illegal.

I think it’s safe to say that issues related to equal access, as well as viewpoint discrimination, apply to occult and alternative spiritualities as well as they apply to sexual orientation.

When the ACLU went after a Virginia school for such filtering, one school leader told them:

The school system is required by federal law to use Internet filtering software to keep students and staffers from looking at inappropriate content at school. He said the division’s Blue Coat filtering software blocks out 32 specific categories, including, for instance, sites containing pornography or promoting violence or drugs. But the process is automated and sometimes the software doesn’t correctly differentiate between, for example, gay support groups and gay pornography.

I can see where there might be trouble distinguishing types of sites when it comes to LGBTQ material, but when it comes to the occult, the likelihood of turning up something inappropriate — e.g. porn — is very, very small. Filtering out occult-related information is just plain discriminatory. I can’t help wondering how many other high schools attempt to prevent kids from accessing such information.

Parents, are you aware of what filters your kids’ schools are using to restrict access to information? What would you want such filters to include? What wouldn’t you want them to include?