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Michigan Town Rejects Censorship Plan For Public Library.

Voters in a conservative city in western Michigan have rejected a library censorship plan backed by the American Family Association.

Residents of Holland went to the polls Feb. 22 and turned back the measure by a vote of 4,379 to 3,626. The proposal was pushed by the Rev. Donald Wildmon's American Family Association, a Tupelo, Miss.-based group. It was believed to be the first such proposal in the nation to appear as a ballot referendum.

The measure was heavily promoted by the AFA and other Religious Right groups, which outspent opponents 14 to 1. It was quite punitive and would have required the city's library to block all computers from receiving sites on the World Wide Web that contain "obscene, sexually explicit or other material harmful to minors" or lose all municipal funding. Members of the Holland Library Board opposed the measure, arguing that filters often don't work and that the library has policies in place to deal with patrons who access pornographic sites.

Gary Glenn, president of the AFA branch in Michigan, argued that libraries need filters because children may accidentally stumble across pornography on the Internet and become permanently scarred by it. "The librarians can't move fast enough to prevent that image from entering the child's mind and staying there forever," Glenn told The New York Times.

But librarians in Holland said those concerns were overblown. Karen Goorhous, the library's computer trainer, noted that the computers in the children's wing of the library aren't even connected to the Web.Goorhous said she has only once encountered an adult looking at pornographic sites on a library computer, and she told him to stop.

Although bankrolled by the AFA, the crusade for library filters was led locally by Irvin Bos, a 59-year-old Holland resident who manages apartment buildings. Bos told The Times he was led to fight pornography because of an incident that occurred when he was 12. Bos said he found a sexually explicit book by a roadside and read it several times while hiding in the family's barn. Six months later, he said, the barn was struck by lightning and the family's prize bull and best cow were killed.

Remarked Bos, "I just knew I had caused that barn to burn down."
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Publication:Church & State
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2000
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