Since submitting this week's "Always Right" column to the Star, HB 1727 failed to meet committee deadline and apparently will not move forward this session. After HB 1727 successfully passed the Illinois House, the Illinois Library Association's outrage intimidated Senate President Emil Jones (D-Chicago) into burying HB 1727 in Senate Rules committee graveyard.
Jones acted as official "Library Legislation Censor" by blocking legislation that would filter from library patrons' view illegal images of children being sexually abused or women being raped and beaten, just two examples of obscene materials which the Supreme Court has deemed unprotected by the First Amendment. Such images should not be available on any computer monitor, much less taxpayer-funded computers in public libraries.
Who really has the best interests of the state in mind? It's certainly distressing that our legislative leaders see no problem with taxpayers funding illegal activity in public libraries and it is equally troubling that our community librarians are willing participants in the conspiracy to protect illegal activity.
Let your legislators and your local librarians know where you stand on this issue.
From The Star, May 20, 2007
If you visited the library last Monday and had trouble accessing the Internet, your local library probably participated in the Illinois Library Association’s “Unity Day.”
Publicly-funded libraries throughout Illinois blocked Internet access for one day this week to protest a proposed state law requiring that libraries protect patrons from computer exposure to obscene images.
In addition, several library trustee boards, such as the one in Palos Heights, passed resolutions opposing House Bill 1727 and forwarded those resolutions to influence their state lawmakers.
It is unimaginable that library trustees are resisting outside help to enforce federal and state laws concerning child pornography and obscene images. The Palos Heights library board’s resolution stated that their local librarians are better qualified than impersonal computer software to determine what should be viewed legally in their library.
How times have changed for local librarians! Because the ILA declares filtering Internet access as a form of censorship, men and women who have devoted their respectable professional careers to library science are now awkwardly determining whether patrons’ Web site choices are legal. One wonders if that particular responsibility is listed on most librarians’ job descriptions.
Indeed, encouraging and enabling Internet porn viewing is serious business. Law enforcement officials trained specifically to combat illegal Internet activity say that they have to rotate members of their task forces off Internet duty because what they view in the course of a month can be psychologically harmful. Any normal human can take only so many images of infants being sexually abused and women being brutally raped and tortured without being negatively affected.
And librarians resist state-required Internet filters, to take on similar duty, based on First Amendment rights? Library trustees have fallen for the ILA’s propaganda if they suppose prudish little grandmas are designing Internet filtering software and determining what will be restricted from public library screens if HB 1727 becomes law. A whole new wave of technology has created a reliable and flexible system of filtering Internet access and it’s being done according to constitutionally sound standards.
In fact, the U.S. Supreme Court defined obscenity in the 1973 Miller v. California decision. Counter to ILA’s claims, certain sexual material is not protected by the First Amendment. Judges and juries are instructed to use the Supreme Court’s guidelines to determine whether or not images are “obscene”:
• If the images stir an unwholesome sexual interest; n If the work depicts or describes sexual conduct in an offensive way;
• If the work lacks serious literary, artistic, political and scientific value.
In addition, child pornography (i.e. images of children involved in sexual acts) is illegal and should never be permitted on public library computer monitors.
If a personal computer is discovered with child pornography, the owner is questioned by law officials. Yet, the ILA would argue for unfiltered access, potentially exposing patrons to images that could be used as prosecution evidence.
In a letter to The Star, Homer Glen resident Brian Smith wrote that HB 1727 would substitute computer software for parental supervision. Such a position was “alarming,” Mr. Smith wrote.
“The Illinois state government would be creating a default setting on all library computers in which the machine decides which Web sites any parent's child may or may not see,” he wrote.
Mr. Smith does not mention in his letter nor in his identification that he is a library services consultant from Prairie Area Library System and that he recently served in the Homer Public Library’s adult services division.
During the 15 years our family home-schooled our children, we visited our local library frequently. One year the Acorn Public Library actually named us “Family of the Year” for our extensive use of the library as a family. I watched my children closely during our visits because they were my whole focus and responsibility. My situation was fairly unique. Most busy, two-career parents are simply unavailable to oversee their children’s library visits.
Despite our busy schedules, protecting our community’s kids is still our joint responsibility. We should do what we can to protect them from harmful materials -- even those available on local public libraries’ computers.
This is something on which the Palos Heights Library Board and I evidently agree.
Their recent resolution opposing HB 1727 states: “Be it further resolved that the Palos Heights Public Library in concert with the Illinois library community supports the goal of protecting children. One of the primary concerns of the library community is the safety of children. The best way to protect children is to teach them to guard their privacy and make wise choices.
“To this end, the Illinois General Assembly, if seriously interested in protecting children, can help by funding an educational campaign now. Education, not laws blocking access, is the key to safe use of the Internet.”
The question remains, how can children be taught what to avoid unless they view it? In this case, how can we truly educate them without harming them?
The time has come for adults to act as adults. We can, for instance, patiently explain to children why they should be strapped into car safety seats. Some children will listen and cooperate. Others will resist until they are forced to buckle up. The same is true when protecting children from harmful images that could scar their impressionable minds.
Let’s unify as a community in an effort to protect our kids from obscene materials in our public libraries. Then, and only then, will they be free to safely learn how to use the Internet wisely.
Fran Eaton is a south suburban resident, a conservative activist in state and national politics and an online journalist. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org