The Public Library


I am a life-long bibliophile. I consider my weekly foray into the San Jose Public Library to be golden, and I note with some pride that the San Jose main branch has over 8,000 visitors a day. So it comes as a surprise to learn that in fact my public library is an utter den of iniquity.


Well, according to two Christian and family values advocacy organizations–the local Values Advocacy Council and the Phoenix-based Alliance Defense Fund–the San Jose library is a veritable hard-bound, first edition of the Sodom and Gomorra instruction manual, and we must protect the innocent.

Not having filters is outrageous! We must make our libraries family-safe once again. We must protect our children and grandchildren from Internet pornography.

Larry Pegram, President, Values Advocacy Council

The Alliance Defense Fund, which describes itself as “dedicated to aggressively defend religious liberties, protect the sanctity of life and promote traditional family values,” works by providing legal services for individuals and organizations that advance its causes. In other words, “you oppress, and we’ll fund your defense – whaddya got to lose?”


Founded by a group of high-profile Xristian Xrazies leaders such as D. James Kennedy and James Dobson, the Alliance Defense Fund sees itself as the anti-ACLU. As a legal group, it assists and augments the efforts of other wingnutters to “keep the door open for the spread of the Gospel.” The ADF has been active on issues including pushing “marriage protection,” exposing the “homosexual agenda” and fighting the supposed “war on Christmas.”

ADF claims many “victories” before the Supreme Court, including: Boy Scouts of America v. Dale (2000), which allowed the Boy Scouts to fire a Scout Leader due solely to his sexual orientation, and Zelman v. Simmons-Harris (2002), upheld Ohio’s school voucher system, which allows for parents to send their children to private or religious schools with taxpayer-funded vouchers.


The ADF also won United States v. American Library Association (2003), in which the Court voted to allow the federal government to withhold federal funds if libraries did not comply with the filtering called for by the Children’s Internet Protection Act of 2000. So you see, things are not looking good for San Jose.

In no time at all, the ADF, using half-truths and ham-fisted tactics, turned library filters into a cause celebre at San Jose City Hall. The pressure tactics were diabolically clever and mundanely predictable: City Council members opposing filters risk being accused of being in favor of children looking at smut.


Not only did ADF inform San Jose it had a major moral outrage (who knew?), ADF offered a solution (out of the goodness of their christian hearts, no doubt): Adopt the ADF filter policy verbatim, and the organization will defend the city at no charge against First Amendment challenges–all the way to the Supreme Court. “Let us pay to censor yourselves,” seems to be their operating procedure.


Libraries are public institutions in the United States, and one of the absolute hallmarks of what separates us from the rest of the world. They are funded by our tax dollars, and in times both good and bad, Libraries experience what the rest of the economy experiences. So is it not then the case that Libraries are also beholden to the same separation of Church and State as other public entities? If you give one religious group its way with the libraries, are you not endorsing one religion over another? Are you not doing something that establishes some sort of endorsement of a state-sponsored religion?


Now, as good Scissorheads know, I am not a conspiracy theorist, and in fact I almost never use tin foil for any reason whatsoever. That said, I cannot help but wonder if there is a larger movement afoot. Do the Christians want to shut down the libraries? I suspect that they might.

Here’s the deal: libraries contain knowledge, unfettered and free. Want to learn about evolution, the “junk science” of global warming, where babies come from, how old the earth is, go to the library. Want to learn about atheism, paganism, other cultures and religions, go to the library. Want to learn about the GLBT experience, alternative families, how to defend your civil rights? Go to the library.

And lastly, consider this: Adam and Eve were thrown out of Eden for knowing too much, they ate from the tree of knowledge.

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10 Responses to The Public Library

  1. The one thing on our side? Those assholes will only make the “bad” sites more desirable for kids who will find a way to access them.


  2. fairlane says:

    You also have to remember the Neo-Cons want to destroy the government, and everything it funds, except of course the War Machine.


  3. darkblack says:

    I would opine that the so-called ‘church folk’ who dabble in censorship take note of the less-timid members of their flock who stride confidently through the secular world without fear of taint or temptation, and do so without forcing their faith on others less receptive.
    Should they prove unable to resist such urges, they would do well to examine a belief so weak as to require enforced participation.

    Fight on, T.


  4. Sorghum Crow says:

    Libraries are evil. They have information. And differing opinions. How can that be good?

    Discalimer: I am on the board at my local library, a tiny place supported in (small)part by the town and mostly by donation and fund raising, along the lines of public radio. Our official status is public but not municipal, (email me if you want to donate, sorry no pledge gifts).
    We have no filters and the only book censorship is by choice of acquisitions.


  5. Robert Rouse says:

    Nice post! I will definitely be using this post in today’s Blog World Report.


  6. ellroon says:

    My son is at a college campus where jesus-freaks come on to the grounds and often into the library. They bring their kids on whom they have written Jesus in Sharpie on their foreheads. They will sit down in the center of a crowded walkway and scream that education will be everyone’s downfall, that education is evil.

    Personally I don’t see the attraction to joining a group that yells all the time, but obviously they have a point. Education is really difficult for stupid people.

    I collect books and cannot see a world without libraries, but have to admit I do not use one. What I want, I buy or have or find on the net. But for those who are not making their houses slowly subside into the ground from all the books, libraries are the great equalizer. When Andrew Carnegie was making amends to the community for having been a robber baron… he built libraries.

    No wonder the fundies want to shut them down.


  7. Morse says:

    Of course shutting the doors would be the ultimate filter, but then who would have access to WorldNetDaily, or the National Review, or Jonah Goldberg’s soon never to be published book? Of course there’s always the Starr Report.


  8. “City Council members opposing filters risk being accused of being in favor of children looking at smut.”
    It would be a scary place to be, but city council members COULD stand up and dispute that. I mean, like Edward R. Murrow, in the face of Joe McCarthy’s tactics did. People have to stop being cowed by loudmouth fascist bullies. It is scary, but until they do, the bullies will continue to win.

    Excellent post. And I’ll say again, if you get a chance go and see the movie, “The Hollywood Librarian.” It will move you to tears.


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  10. As a Phoenix resident who spends a lot of time in San Jose, I apologize that you are getting our overflow of religious lunatics. Personally I think every church should be torn down and a library put in its place. I can see why the loonies feel threatened by libraries although I don’t know if it is a conscious strategy to attack libraries – the fundies aren’t that smart. I think it’s just that the christian meme evolved ignorance and knowledge-avoidance as a survival strategy.


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