FIRST-PERSON: American Library Association is no friend of our children
SANDPOINT, Idaho (BP)--I remember my first experience with pornography. I was 8, maybe 9 years old at the time.
My slightly older brother had convinced me to take his paper route for the day. What I remember most was not throwing papers on the sprawling lawns of a middle-class neighborhood -- instead, it was the glossy image in the center of a pornographic magazine that I came across at an old abandoned gas station in a Southern California suburb. Now, nearly four decades later, I still remember exactly what I saw that day.
So, when my two sons came home from the East Bonner County Public Library one day, I was appalled at what they told me. "Dad," my 14-year-old said, "did you know kids are looking at pornography on the computers at the library?"
My first response was, it can't be true. Libraries are supposed to be places where children learn, where they are protected, where responsible adults offer reasonable guidance. I moved from Los Angeles to Sandpoint, Idaho, to raise my kids in a more wholesome environment. This is one of the most conservative states in the nation. Pornography on the library computers -- could I be that naive?
I did some investigating.
I read library policy, asked questions, read the American Library Association (ALA) handbooks and policies. Sure enough, our brand-new public library was now the only X-rated shop in town. Our beautiful taxpayer-funded facility is situated right between an elementary school, middle school and high school. Children flock to the library after school -- often surfing the Internet for pornography.
More than 50 percent of teens revealed they have visited websites containing pornography in a study by the National Coalition for the Protection of Children & Families; 79 percent of them have done so on a library or school computer.
The more I learned about the lack of protection for children in my own community, the less naive and the more vigilant I became. In my own small town of 6,000, the library director, chairman and the entire board of trustees have surrendered to the agenda of the ALA.
In an interview on a local talk show, the library director boldly quizzed his interviewer with the following question: "I am asking you, is there a danger in viewing pornography? What would that danger be?" This statement became the catalyst for my own involvement in a grassroots, community-wide, interdenominational effort called Bonner County Citizens for Sound Library Policies.
We canvassed the community, collecting more than 1,600 signatures from concerned parents, businesspeople and teachers. The pressure forced a halfhearted solution by library trustees -- to provide a handful of computer systems that will be filtered for minors (but only with the written requirement from each child's parent).
This is clearly not enough. The worst kind of legal and illegal filth is still readily available on library computers (leaving us no choice but to vote reasonable people on to the board).
Trustees and library directors nationwide cower behind so-called First Amendment rights -- a mantra for the religion of humanism. With nearly 9,000 public libraries scattered across the United States, Internet pornography -- not to mention hate sites -- now pose a serious danger to children and families.
With the passage of the Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA), schools and libraries that do not provide filtered access for minors will lose e-rate subsidies. So far, only 21 percent provide protective filtering, according to a School Library Journal article in January. It is no surprise that the ALA and the American Civil Liberties Union are challenging the act because they believe it violates First Amendment protections; the ACLU, in fact, remains one of the few ardent supporters for legalizing child pornography. According to the ACLU Report on Filtering in Libraries, "Students do have First Amendment rights, and blocking software is inappropriate, especially for junior and high school students."
Today we face the emasculation of moral sanity under the guise of freedom of speech. It doesn't seem to matter whether children are protected from pornographers, pedophiles or rapists -- our so-called freedoms must prevail at all costs. Never mind that librarians have a long history of selecting what materials they will place on their shelves and which they will not. Any librarian who dares to stand for reasonable standards risks the intolerance of the ALA.
Your children and mine are at risk like never before. An Internet savvy adult or child can type in key words and find pornography spilling out of every pixel of their four-color screen.
I am weary of hearing how filtering software doesn't work or that it blocks educational sites. This argument is simply a smokescreen. Filtering software works -- and it is getting more sophisticated all the time. Without filtering software, anyone can type in a keyword to study the White House and find a porn site. Or, more insidious, type in Disney, Britney Spears, Pokemon, toys or candy and gain access to porn sites.
Why, I wonder, are pornographers targeting our children? And why are libraries so intent to protect the very material that degrades women, ruins families and encourages rapists and pedophiles? At least one answer is that pornographers know if they can hook boys at a young age the addictive effects will last a lifetime.
No wonder Jesus said, "And if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck" (Mark 9:42).
Steal a child's innocence and you shatter his faith. As Sir Edmund Burke wisely observed, "Tell me what are the prevailing sentiments that occupy the minds of your young people and I will tell you what is to be the character of the next generation." A morally prudent society can ill afford to ignore the senseless arguments espoused by those intolerant of Judeo-Christian principles.
Otis is the author of "Teach Your Children Well" (Revell) and "Trickle-Down Morality" (Chosen) and president of Creative Resources, Inc., a publicity and public relations agency based in Sandpoint, Idaho.
See story about Sandpoint, Idaho, library dispute: