Library’s computer use policy questioned

by Sherry Hamilton - Posted on Apr 11, 2012 - 02:02 PM

A Mathews resident complained to the board of supervisors during the March meeting that his First Amendment rights had been violated by policies at Mathews Memorial Library.

During the public comment period of the March 27 meeting, Jason Leslie of Bavon said that he had assisted a young man at the library who was trying to access a particular internet site only to have it blocked by a filter. Leslie said he then tried to access the site on his personal computer, using the library’s free wireless internet, and access was again blocked. He said library staff told him it was blocked because the site was that of a cult.

Leslie said later that he was trying to access information about the Edgar Cayce Foundation of Research and Enlightenment, located in Virginia Beach. Although a staff member unblocked the site at Leslie’s request, Leslie said he subsequently had been unable to access various other sites with similar subject matter.

Leslie said he considered the filter a restriction of his right to access information freely.

"I am of the mind that the practice of censoring content … is directly antithetical to the components of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution," said Leslie in a statement he read to supervisors. He said that restricting access to religious and theological perspectives was an "abomination," and that he considered the practice "authoritarian and unconstitutional."