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The Salem Witch Trial of 2012 (Right Here in Missour-ah!)

glinda-the-good-witch_opt.jpg
Are good witches banned from the Salem Public Library, too?
​It's probably entirely coincidental that the Ozark town that keeps a strict filter on its Internet browsers to ensure that none of its patrons happen to stumble on any websites about Wicca is called Salem. Or that the library director is named Glenda. But it does make a lawsuit, filed yesterday in the U.S. district court by the ACLU on behalf of a Salem resident named Anaka Hunter that much more entertaining.

As it happens, Hunter is neither a good witch nor a bad witch. She just happens to be part Native American, and, curious about her heritage, went to the Salem Public Library one day in July, 2010, to use the computer to do Internet research on Native American spirituality. Every site she tried was blocked by the library's Internet filtering system.

Puzzled, she asked Glenda Wofford, director of the Salem Library, what was going on. Wofford explained that the sites -- as well as sites devoted to Wicca, astrology and paganism -- were blocked because the library considered them related to the "occult" and "criminal skills."

Under Missouri law, public libraries are required to put filtering systems on their Internet browsers to keep patrons from checking out child porn. Some libraries, like Salem, also choose to filter out other material. Wofford told Hunter she could unlock certain sites for people who needed information for school projects and subsequently made more material available for Hunter: one page of one website.

When Hunter protested that she felt it was unfair to classify Native American spirituality along as "occult" or "criminal skills," Wofford told her that she had an "obligation" to call the "proper authorities" to report anyone who requested access to blocked sites if she thought they were going to misuse the information. Hunter interpreted this to mean Wofford was going to call the police and stopped trying to do her research at the Salem Public Library.

She did, however, bring the matter up at a library board meeting in November, 2010. "They listened to her, but they made no changes," reports Tony Rothert, one of the ACLU lawyers who filed the lawsuit on Hunter's behalf. "They didn't give a reason. They just said, 'Are you done?'"

Interestingly, although patrons of the Salem library can't access sites such as All About Spirituality, The Church and School of Wicca or even the Wikipedia entry on Wicca, they can look up paganism in The Catholic Encyclopedia and "Astrology and Horoscopes: The Bible and Christian View."

"It violates the establishment clause [in the First Amendment]," Rothert explains. "You can learn what the Catholic Church thinks of paganism, but if you want the pagan view of paganism, it's blocked. It gives preferential treatment to some religions. Any example of a minority religion discussed in a positive way has been blocked."

Rothert had hoped that the matter could be settled without a lawsuit, but Wofford and the library remained inflexible and declined to give an explanation for blocking Hunter's web search.

"It's a new age of book banning," he says.

But in his course of researching the case, he has made one positive discovery: Salem, Missouri, is as much of an outlier as Salem, Massachusetts, was in 1692, the year of the famous witch trials.

"Most public libraries are not engaged in viewpoint discrimination," he says "Most fix the problem."

You can read the entire lawsuit after the jump:

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95 comments
Cool Emerald
Cool Emerald

I am absolutely appalled at most of the comments here slamming the library and Glenda.  I mean, really people, do the courts have better things to do than bother a small town library? I've lived in several large metropolitan areas throughout my life.  This is the best library I have ever encountered, and Glenda and her staff are the most helpful people I've ever known in a library.  They do not deserve this treatment. 

kymbao
kymbao

Dent County's courthouse was not singled out as the one with the offensive photo.  It's not in Dent Co. Jumping to conclusions here.

Move?  Yes, I intend to, as soon as my house sells which is for sale as I speak.  Heard there's a housing problem though.    

Daisycat
Daisycat

Oh its the same old problem: Religion.

Owenstakem
Owenstakem

Censorship is not only unconstitutional it's an abomination of the truth and they want to say wiccans are involved in "criminal skills"? how many witches did they burn ? and how was it proven that they were witches ? My thought is HItler tried to censor stuff. with the book burnings , isn't that the same as censoring what people can find out on the internet... didn't China do this? and aren't they communist ? so in all reality the people of Salem MO who are allowing this , are they communist Nazi's with a tendency to burn witches ? that sounds criminal to me . not only should she win this lawsuit an attorney needs to start a class action suit for anyone who is Native American or Wiccan or Pagan for that matter , against the city of Salem MO. The First Amendment (Amendment I) to the United States Constitution is part of the Bill of Rights. The amendment prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion, impeding the free exercise of religion, abridging the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering with the right to peaceably assemble or prohibiting the petitioning for a governmental redress of grievances.  So you would say which one is this guy, I'm polignostic. Which means I can't show you my god and you can't show me yours.   but there's something out there, I believe this is borderline hate crime,

Grant Kim Mastin
Grant Kim Mastin

Just another group of "leaders" who think they know what is right and wrong for others, and no objection will sway them from thier control..... except a revolution of FREEDOM.

Erica
Erica

The sheer stupidity in this comments thread is exactly why I moved out of Missouri.

Frank M.  Taylor
Frank M. Taylor

From reading the article and the complaint, it's hard to discern whether it was truly the library that decided to block the sites, or the program(netsweeper)Occult is defined as supernatural, mystical, or magical beliefs, practices, or phenomena. Amazon.com has an "Occult" category under "Religion & Spirituality" where the books cover subjects from Hinduism, Native American Spirituality, Wicca, Christianity, and Buddhism.  I went to the Netsweeper site and ran occultfaq.org and wicca.org. They both came back under occult; so the largest bookseller in the world and Netsweeper are on the same page with the English dictionary. There's nothing derogatory in the word "occult"; it applies to all religions. Seems to me like the issue is with how the filter was set up. If someone set up the filter to be stronger than just your run-of-the-mill child protection, and that person *wasn't* the librarian, the the librarian was basing her judgement strictly on how Netsweeper was reacting. Most folks are too ignorant of Wicca and Native spirituality to know how to make an intelligent prejudice against them. The filter said "blocked" and the librarian just assumed it was blocked for a good reason. I have a big issue, though, with making this a religious discrimination argument. Because if this becomes a freedom of religion issue, how do you protect minors and others from Jihadism, NAMBLA, and White Supremacy websites? Those are all rooted in religion and harmful. It seems like a more legitimate complaint is against the *Strength* of the filter. This isn't some Pro-Christian, Anti-Wicca issue, it's just a freaking content filter that was set too strong. 

Twylla Jean from Lenox , MO
Twylla Jean from Lenox , MO

The only person that can rile me worse when they seek knowledge in a library is an atheist.

 Everybody knows Wiccans are pale and chubby passive people who shake magic sticks at trees and frogs. They will be easy to suppress as the 2012 rapture comes, cause they are too timid to exercise NRA Second Amendment Rights to use superior firepower on other inferior religions. But the atheist use math to secretly talk to each other, and that is not Natural Law. Most atheist are secretly scientist and they can't be trusted with the internet. 

I say shun and nullify the Wiccans first, then the Scientologist (especially Tom Cruise and his creepy kid) then move up to using the Mormons to defeat the Muslim Obamas ....well it's a lot of effort but somehow the Unitarians must be silenced too. The Lords work in Salem, MO is never done.

Jeremy Fridy
Jeremy Fridy

I'm sure the incinerator at the back of the library must be popular with the locals too.

Marthaesammy
Marthaesammy

Any advice to librarians who are worried about filtering software at the public library where they work?  How to present concerns to city manager and or library director without putting them on the defense? I remember the days before filtering when I would walk by a public computer and think I was at a peep show! How to make people behave...?

Strgoddss
Strgoddss

It is inexcusable that any adult can't use the PUBLIC library o look up information as they wish. Perhaps they blocked the memo letting them know that he burning times are over.

Reverend Jefferey Dobbins
Reverend Jefferey Dobbins

I can not believe the way some of you BIGOTS jump to conclusion!This poor women has not even been dunked in the pond yet and you assume her innocence.Clearly the mere search for forbidden knowledge affirms her wanton guilt, but wait for the official proclamation !

A library "search" for wiccan stuff, and you know what comes next --- some Mary worshiping papist looking for prayers to some patron saint of the boozing Irish? 

You want your kids going to the library to learn atheistic evil-utionary science from some crippled tard' spazz of a Steven Dawkins?Let the tribunal ply its Godly craft of hot pokers and dunking stools before we waste time gathering stones for the "final solution" to these witches.

Praise: From the chosen brethren of Landover Baptist Church - Salvation Since 1620!

Cotten Mather
Cotten Mather

As an affirmed Witch Hunter, Inquisitor  {and avid seeker of The Devils Mark on young women's bodies} I am overjoyed at this news. I have spent far too long waiting for a righteous community to inflict Gods' Law upon the citizenry. I know for a fact that there is a goth-like child living near Salem, Missouri. This is a sure sign of demonic possession due to unwarranted library usage of a heretical nature. I do not understand the sympathy  (collusion?) of some of you posters toward the accused witch. Clearly she is an old crone who most likely keeps a cat, or goat familiar!Remember, first its searching the inter webs; then its dancing naked in the moonlight to the Devils tune.

Wiccawhat
Wiccawhat

That's far from the Salem Witch Trials. If she wants to look at wicca sites, then go to a wifi hotspot find a 12-year-old with a smart phone. A public library can carry or not carry whatever books or magazines or web sites it feels are in the best interest of its customers. That stuff won't play in Salem, but her civil rights were not violated. Just go to one of the other 14 gazillion internet points of access! People find the most ridiculous things to get upset about. 

Marsha
Marsha

Oh my goodness.  Just when one thinks they have heard everything...What a disturbing misuse of authority.  Has this library ever even heard of the Constitution? Library filters are allowable for the prevention of CRIMINAL ACTIVITY.  Hello, Salem, Missouri, being non-Christian or researching non-Christian religions and spiritual practices are not criminal acts, but guess what? Discrimination, invasion of privacy, and impeding religious freedom are, in fact, legally reprehensible acts.  =]  It is looking like the ACLU needs to just build a center or establish a task force specifically for addressing issues in Missouri.  And to Anaka Hunter, stand tall and proud, sister, you have done a great thing by bringing this to the attention of those who can correct this travesty.

Margie Franzen
Margie Franzen

In the New World we might just block all other faiths.

Bob
Bob

Simple solution: Buy your own computer and you won't have to worry about being censored with what you view on your own computer.  The library provides the computers as a courtesy for people to use. It is not required to even have computers. Instead of feeling as though you are entitled to a service, be thankful that they allow you to use their property. It does, after all, belong to the library. The owner gets to call the shots.  If you don't like it, stop whining and go get your own stuff.  Buy your own computer, pay for your own internet service.

MichaelM_3_99
MichaelM_3_99

I am certain that if Miss hunter purchased her own computer and internet provider then she could search all the wiccan sites she wanted.  Before i purchased a computer, I frequently used this library's computer assets.  I found the staff to always be helpful and polite.  Since the library is funded by county taxes(not city taxes) maybe Miss Hunter should take her battle up with the Dent county taxpayers.  See what the majority of Dent county taxpayers think of her persecution.  I have no use for wicca, wiccans, or any other religion except my own so I know which way I would vote.  Does that make me close-minded?  Maybe, but don't represss my freedom of speech abilities to express my opinion.

Danieljoeoconnor
Danieljoeoconnor

sue them and take their funding. they don't deserve a library if they are gonna play "little  china".great article. kudos for having the courage to expose this kinda evil parading as christianity.it's amazing how such a beautiful area can have such mean vicious people. 

ihatesuburbs
ihatesuburbs

Is anyone truly surprised that some small town country fuck would do something like this? I swear the vast majority of people in rural Missurah are inbred uneducated toothless religious zealot bigoted chaw eating fucksticks. 

Thekatlife
Thekatlife

Is this really worth a law suit?  Give me a break, people.  Miss Hunter can just come to my house to use the Internet for learning about Native American spirituality, and we can all be done with the whole "discrimination" talk.

Lowell
Lowell

If we are not ALL free to explore our spirituality and our spiritual roots, then we are not free at all.Criminal skills?  I am a Christian with a seminary degree and would be surprised if Pagans got all upset over Jesus' destruction of property, incitement to civil disobedience, or encouragement of us to set the prisoners free.The words library and censorship are incompatible.  Libraries have traditionally shed light, not sided with those who want to keep us in the dark.  

Dszela
Dszela

Ignorant idiots.............

Kati
Kati

As someone who lives in Salem, and who frequented the library pretty much non-stop as a kid, and almost as much as an adult, I am absolutely floored. Speechless. Seeing red. 

The library is a place of learning.  It is not a church.  It is not a nanny. 

My tax dollars (Yes, I most certainly DO pay them) at work?  Makes me ill.

Joe
Joe

Salem is one of those places that says Missour-ee, not Missour-uh.  It's a very small place, and the library is very small.  I'm surprised they have internet at all.

foxfirewalkingstick
foxfirewalkingstick

I am wiccan/pagan. Tan, athletic, and own a gun. I would use it on anyone who tried to attack me. Fuck Scientologists, and fuck you Twylla, you are an ignorant backward brainwashed sheep. Mother Earth is going to swallow you whole and use you as fertilizer... P.S. mathematics and natural law have a lot to do with each other... if you knew anything above a 7th grade level in chemistry, you could see that... but anyway, I'm wasting my breath here... nothing I say can fix your stupidity so all I can say is, stay the fuck away from any pagans, and use your gun to blow your own brains out. You cannot nullify what is essentially part of the oldest religion on earth... Wicca/Shamanism.

To all my wiccan brethren out there, Sorry for my outrage, it just really fires me up to see such ignorance. While I normally embrace the lighter side of our beliefs, certain things really piss me off. I don't feel that any amount of philosophy or kindness can fix certain people... so fuck em.

 

The Truth from the shadows
The Truth from the shadows

you have got to be one of the most foolish people I have ever had the displeasure of running across.

witches and those who practice Wicca are not all like that. You are a bigot and a fool just like the rest of like minded followers of Christ, besides we must have done something right for the followers of christ stole every single holiday from us.... 

foxfirewalkingstick
foxfirewalkingstick

Either your sarcasm is the most superior form I have ever seen, or you deserve to be shot and your body desecrated and dedicated to Diana...

wherestheoutrage
wherestheoutrage

Salem MO is a very small town (I know I once lived there years ago) and the public city library is probably the ONLY place Ms. Hunter could have gone to conduct a free internet search on a computer.  Why should you tell her to go find a 12 year old with a smart phone?  Why can she not just go to the library and do her research on a harmless subject?  That's what happens in 99% of the rest of this country. 

foxfirewalkingstick
foxfirewalkingstick

It belongs to the taxpayers, dumbass. she DID pay for it. faggot.

 

Erica
Erica

That library is open on public funds.  Therefore, the public is entitled to those services and they're entitled to having their first amendment rights remain intact while doing so.  If it's not illegal, it should not be blocked.   If you want censorship, use a computer at a Catholic school.

Nomadbuzzahd
Nomadbuzzahd

You ARE entitled to the service. That's what a library is. A public right of everyone in the fucking country. Simple solution: let people have access to other religions. Can you explain to me why a native american would not be allowed to learn about their heritage? What possible good could come of stopping that?

ihatesuburbs
ihatesuburbs

Congrats on writing the stupidest post here yet. 'Buy your own computer if you don't like it, hyuck hyuck hyuck'. Sounds like you are one of the fucking rubes who runs this stupid fucking little library in this stupid little backwards town. Idiot.

CC
CC

you're an idiot, plain and simple.

Rowena
Rowena

Could you be any dumber or more ignorant?  The library is public property; it belongs to all of us.  A private library could restrict its content in any way it saw fit; a public library must follow the law, particularly the First Amendment.  A public library is a service that we pay for; we are entitled to it.  Content cannot be restricted based upon any individual's personal preferences for religion or any other subject.  If you are too ignorant to understand that, you are an example of why we need more access to information, not less.

ihatesuburbs
ihatesuburbs

You are a asshole. What about the taxes she pays you ignorant shitheap? I guess that doesn't matter because she doesn't think like your typical inbred piece of shit down home missurah resident. Because you disagree with her point of view you blow her off. So much for freedom of religion on your mind. Ex number 1092 why I loath backwoods fundamentalists with their fake ass morals and their fake ass christian ideals. Bunch of judgmental idiotic chicken fucking country fucks with no brains and lots of opinions. I guess at least the power gained by this napolean complex pieces of shit might spare a young relatives asshole. From what I hear these moonshine swilling pieces of shit can't resist buggering their family members when they finally shut the fuck up about their stupid fucking religion.

geez
geez

the library is funded by city taxes.   I live in Dent County outside city limits I have to pay a membership fee if I want to use the library  no fee if you live in town!!!

Rowena
Rowena

Whether you have any personal interest in looking up information about religions other than your own is irrelevant.  You do not have the right to restrict public access to such information.  You may choose to remain ignorant but you have no right to keep others in the dark with you.  What if a public library, funded by you as a taxpayer, chose to censor information on your religion?  I bet your attitude toward censorship would change then.  It seems that Missourians have no grasp of the U.S. Constitution and the First Amendment. 

MichaelM_3_99
MichaelM_3_99

Trivial litigation is always the answer...  If Miss Hunter's goal is to deplete funding for the library by a trivial lawsuit then she will probably succeed.  If they have to quit providing any internet access to patrons because of funding then who wins?  Another story of someone's selfishness affecting the masses.  Miss hunter might try purchasing her own computer.  just a thought.

ihatesuburbs
ihatesuburbs

I forgot to mention that many are ignorant chicken fuckers, when they find the strength to  resist buggering their younger siblings that is.

CC
CC

 Typical. What about the next person who wants to use the library for something similar? Are you going to open the door to everyone who needs the internet? Get it through your head that this isn't ok and it shouldn't be tolerated and yes it is worth a lawsuit and more, only in these backwater podunks do these situations still exist, it's 2012 for crying out loud.

Anonymous
Anonymous

So if someone was running a taxpayer-funded public library and forwarded any computer's browser directly to the wikipedia entry for Satanism, you'd be okay with coming over to my dungeon^H^H^H^H^H^H^H house to use my computer to do research?

The director is in violation of fundamental American institutions. They warned her, she said "Fuck you." If the government can control what you see or hear, they can control what you say or think.

anonymous
anonymous

well i certainly agree with your argument Rowena but i have to disagree on your judgement of Missourians as a whole. I for one am very well educated in the U.S. Constitution and the first amendment and i know most people that have went to my school are too. It is a requirement to pass a test on the U.S. Constitution to graduate.

ihatesuburbs
ihatesuburbs

Why would they need to get rid of all computers? It would be far easier for the ignorant fucking rubes running the library to quit trying censor any topics and to push their fuckhead religious views on everyone.

Nomadbuzzahd
Nomadbuzzahd

I'm on your side with being against the censorship but your classist ignorant stereotyping of rural poor people is bullshit. I'm as progressive as they come and I'm not ashamed of growing up poor.

think about it
think about it

Did u ever consider that what was published in the papers isn't the whole truth. Kinda sounds to me like a twisted story to make someone some money!

ihatesuburbs
ihatesuburbs

Usually the 'whole truth' to a backwards country fuck involves backward country fuck 'values' which have no place in the 21st century. Sorry chicken fuckers, the world has moved on from your little house on the prairie bullshit. A public library should not censor anything beyond porn PERIOD.

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