BOISE – Saying pornography has “permeated our society,” the Idaho House voted 63-7 Monday to require the state’s libraries to filter Internet access for adults.
Federal law already requires libraries that receive federal funds to filter Internet access for children, and most Idaho libraries do. But when it comes to adults, some do and some don’t.
State Librarian Ann Joslin said at least one Idaho library district held a public hearing on the issue “and heard very clearly from their adult residents that they did not want filtered Internet access on the adult computers.” The bill would no longer let local library boards make that decision.
“We certainly have some serious concerns about it,” Joslin said.
State Rep. Mack Shirley, R-Rexburg, said a group called Citizens for Decency brought the idea to him. “As a result, I’ve done a lot of personal research into this topic,” he told the House. “My personal research has convinced me that pornography poses one of the greatest destructive forces … on the youth.”
Under the bill, House Bill 205, local library boards could set their own policies for whether adults doing “legitimate research” could request to have the filtering turned off.
Shirley acknowledged that librarians opposed the bill and raised concerns including costs and the First Amendment, but he said others supported it. At one small Idaho library, he said, “Big lumberjacks would come in from out in the timber and get into material they shouldn’t, and there’d be youths sitting right next to them.” That small library now has a free Internet filter program, he said, which solved the problem.
Rep. Shirley Ringo, D-Moscow, who was among those voting against the bill, said, “Those libraries in the communities have boards, and I think they’re capable of deciding what’s appropriate for the culture of their community and how to get it done. I think we should be into the problem-solving mode when we’re down here, and not looking for things that reflect our values and maybe not somebody else’s.”
Joslin said Idaho libraries have found that less expensive filters tend to block legitimate material, such as research on breast cancer. “Filters really can’t tell the difference between sand dunes and human flesh,” she said.
The Idaho Library Association offered to work with the bill’s sponsors to make the measure more workable for Idaho libraries but was rebuffed.
Rep. Linden Bateman, R-Idaho Falls, told the House that pornography pervades our nation, as a result of Supreme Court decisions starting in 1925 and “the handmaiden of the Supreme Court, the ACLU.” He said, “Now the sewers have been opened and pornography has flooded the entire country. And all of this was done without really taking children into the equation.”
Bateman said “just one powerful exposure” to pornography can “devastate the life of the child.” He said, “It’s so permeated our society you can’t avoid it. It’s been thrust upon us, it’s everywhere.” He urged support for the bill.
The measure now moves to the Senate.