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2003 PE Report

Americans find comfort in ‘nesting,’ but connecting is another matter (December 22, 2002)

Viewer discretion advised: Reality-based programs stoop to new low (December 15, 2002)

A/G among fastest growing faith groups (December 8, 2002)

Christians play crucial role in foster care (November 24, 2002)

A/G churches remember with outreaches (November 17, 2002)

Elderly face added woes from credit card debt (November 10, 2002)

PE Kidz News from BGMC (October 27, 2002)

Cyber-evangelists find innovative ways to share gospel (October 20, 2002)

Risks, stigma accompany wearing of tattoos (October 13, 2002)

Women lead on-campus ministries (September 29, 2002)

Tobacco, alcohol, gambling industries find underage Internet client base (September 22, 2002)

Marijuana, cocaine have abusive company: Ecstasy, meth and prescription painkillers (September 15, 2002)

September 11: A day that changed American Christians forever (September 8, 2002)

Congress, courts clash over Internet filtering issue (August 25, 2002)

People with disabilities bless churches (August 18, 2002)

Short-term youth binges can result in long-term habit (August 11, 2002)

Christians aim to preserve traditional marriage (July 28, 2002)

Payback time: Christian volunteers motivated to give back to community (July 21, 2002)

Urban training centers minister
to ever-growing population
(July 14, 2002)

E-mail rumors dupe multitudes, hurt credibility (June 30, 2002)

Not so innocent: PG-13 films increasingly push sex, language limits (June 23, 2002)

Skipping church: Why are some Americans staying home on Sunday? (June 16, 2002)

Fudge fellowship: Pastor's wife treats tavern clientele (June 9, 2002)

Persevering nomadic church finally reaches promised land (May 26, 2002)

Tragedy brings A/G church, community closer to God (May 19, 2002)

Couples find God's calling in adopting, raising children (May 12, 2002)

A/G chaplain ministers to women in maximum-security prison (April 28, 2002)

Youth center offers alternative to teens (April 21, 2002)

A week without television (April 14, 2002)

Technological know-how aids San Jose church outreach (March 31, 2002)

Cincinnati racial reconciliation brings inner peace to inner city (March 24, 2002)

District's fund-raising efforts aid pastors planting churches (March 17, 2002)

GED program an effective ministry (March 10, 2002)

Building relationshipis at heart of women's ministries outreach (February 24, 2002)

Single-minded devotion: Unmarried ranks offer ministry opportunities (February 17, 2002)

Bethany College honors black minister pioneer (February 10, 2002)

A/G quarterback wins Unitas Award (January 27, 2002)

Camp Melody plants song of love in boys' hearts (January 20, 2002)

Pastor breaks giving record after 10 days atop billboard (January 13, 2002)

2001 News Digest stories

2000 News Digest stories

Congress, courts clash over Internet filtering issue

(August 25, 2002)

By John Cockroft

Motion on a computer screen catches librarian Laura Morgan’s eye. A patron is viewing a pornographic MPEG file video on the library’s Internet system.

"I called security to verify that our administration allows this," Morgan says. "They do."

Though potential solutions vary, many librarians, lawmakers and judges share Morgan’s dilemma of guarding against unwanted images while not curtailing "free speech."

On May 31, a month before it was to take effect, the Children’s Internet Protection Act was struck down in federal court. The legislation had been designed to withhold federal funding from public libraries not using filters. The U.S. Department of Justice plans a Supreme Court appeal.

Congress had passed the act to require filters in all public library computers (similar to those used in public schools) which would block pornographic sites. The American Library Association and the American Civil Liberties Union objected, saying such filtering devices block certain appropriate sites and don’t eliminate all unwanted sites.

Local libraries continue to decide what, if any, restrictions to impose. According to the National Commission on Library and Information Science, the number of public libraries using some type of filtering system jumped from 24 percent in 2000 to 43 percent in 2001.

But many libraries still allow unlimited access to all ages. Morgan, 41, a librarian for 13 years in the Visual and Performing Arts Division at the Harold Library Center in Chicago, isn’t satisfied with her administration’s position to allow access for all.

Supervisors encouraged Morgan to leave her position because of her objections. Instead, she became more vocal, appearing before Congress and on national television to promote Internet filtering. "Many of my co-workers are quietly supportive," she says.

Many librarians, fearing free speech activists, feel intimidated to stand up against what they consider a hostile work environment where patrons surf for porn. Few are as bold as Heidi Borton, 52. After a year and a half of protesting Internet porn and sacrificing promotions and her reputation, Borton left Woodinville Public Library near Seattle after Web access turned her library into what she calls a tax-financed peep show.

"Sexual addictions are allowed to flourish in libraries with full Internet access," Borton says. "My Christian convictions wouldn’t allow me to continue to work in a place where children were allowed to surf porn."

Morgan also says she has seen adult males surfing for porn in the library to deliberately expose it to female library staff and patrons, including children.

Stephanie Costantino, a 34-year-old pastor’s wife in Camano Island, Wash., didn’t even know Internet pornography existed two years ago. "I was waiting in line at the local library with my 9-year-old son and 9-year-old nephew when the boys pointed to a computer screen with naked women on it," she says. "A teenage boy was at the computer."

The librarian told Costantino that such images were permitted. Months of trying to get the library to install filters proved fruitless. "We homeschool our three children and depended on library books," Costantino says. "Now I won’t take my kids there anymore."

An ALA executive summary published by Jenner & Block, a Chicago-based law firm, warns that lawsuits are more likely to be filed over filtering rather than not using filters. "We love children and want to protect them, but feel the use of filters that block constitutionally protected speech isn’t the way to go," former ALA president John W. Berry told PE Report.

Berry, 55, offers several solutions to protecting children, including "smart cards" that allow degrees of Internet access predetermined by a parent. He also suggests recessed monitors, privacy screens seen only from a direct viewpoint or placing screens within eyeshot of library staff members who can monitor inappropriate activity.

However, the ALA summary claims smart cards could "seriously compromise" children’s First Amendment rights, stating, "Children possess certain constitutional rights independent of their parents."

The summary further states that allowing librarians to monitor Internet activity "invites arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement contrary to the library’s mission and First Amendment guarantees."

What about child pornography?

"The ALA is an educational enterprise with no law enforcement capabilities," Berry says. Which leaves Morgan and other librarians with little ammunition to combat child pornography incidents.

In February, Morgan found child pornography on a vacated screen. She told administrators, who said law enforcement isn’t their job.

But Morgan maintains library pornography infringes on the rights of many. "As a mother, I am concerned for my children," Morgan says. "As a woman, it’s a sexual harassment issue to be subjected to viewing pornography, and as a citizen, it is disturbing to find child pornography that goes unprosecuted."

Bruce Taylor, 51, president of the National Law Center for Children and Families in Fairfax, Va., says librarians shouldn’t have the responsibility of monitoring patrons.

"Parents should supervise their children – kids aren’t safe alone in libraries," he says. "Congress isn’t going to solve this problem. Parents can get libraries to filter voluntarily, and local and state law enforcement can enforce existing obscenity laws."

On the federal level, Taylor says prosecutors are actively enforcing obscenity laws at the urging of U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft.

"An estimated nine of 10 children ages 8 to 16 have been exposed to obscene material on the Internet," Ashcroft told attendees at the Federal Prosecutors’ Symposium on Obscenity June 6 in Columbia, S.C. "Child molesters often use obscene material to seduce their prey. Pedophiles use the Internet to distribute obscenity, engage in sexually explicit conversations with children and seek potential victims in chat rooms."

But even with millions invested in filtering software, Jack Samad, vice president for the National Coalition for the Protection of Families and Children in Cincinnati, says pornographers’ technology is more advanced. "The porn industry has won the day," says Samad, 49. "I don’t see this fight as winnable, either by legislation or regulation." However, Samad says filters and terminal segregation, though not 100 percent secure, are far better than nothing.

Meanwhile, opinions remain divided over the effectiveness of filtering. "For now, none of them work because the very architecture of the Internet makes it difficult to control," Berry says.

"Many filters are effective in blocking the vast majority of the porn with a relatively small percentage of misblocks," Morgan says.

"We should be willing to be inconvenienced for the security of our youth," Samad says.


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