Salem Library Lawsuit – Update

You may recall that approximately a squillion years ago – 12 January 2012, to be precise – we reported* the case of Anaka Hunter, the Missouri resident who filed suit against the Salem Public Library for blocking access to websites relating to witchcraft, Wicca and related subjects. Hunter’s case is that, since these are religious matters, the block constitutes a violation of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.

The software used to block these subjects had tactfully filed Wicca and witchcraft under ‘Occult’ – a banned category – and several sites had been bundled into the ‘Criminal Skills’ category, including some relating to paganism and, even more bizarrely, indigenous tribal religious traditions and practices.

It occurred to me that we’d not checked in on this case for a while, so I ran a quick search to see how things had gone. Apparently, the wheels of American justice turn no faster than those in our own Blighty: the case rumbles on, though according to an article this month, the City of Salem is no longer named as a ‘party to the defense’.

The article says that ACLU legal director Anthony Rothert considers the city “to not have a real or impactful involvement in the administration of the library.”

Still, the library, its director and board remain as named parties in the case, and talks are apparently underway to try to reach a settlement. Weirdly, Anthony Rothert doesn’t believe this will happen, and he’s anticipating the matter will go to court. A provisional date has been set for late June.


Anyway, why was I calling it weird up there? Well, as difficult (and irresponsible) as it may be to comment on a case without knowing the full ins and outs – as must be expected if you only drop in on it once a year – it does seem peculiar that it’s managed to roll on this long without something giving way.

We’ll keep an eye on it, and bring you the latest as it happens.**

[* All right: we relayed the report. Happy now? I still think ‘we reported’ sounds better. Makes us like a proper news organisation. Just waiting for Murdoch to buy us out for a zeeeellion dollars.]

[** Or, more accurately, as soon as we think to check up again.]


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