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Group opposed to adult content rallies at Comstock Center

from www.argus-press.com – OWOSSO, Michigan – More than 50 area residents gathered Monday night at the Comstock Inn to discuss ways to remove explicit adult material from the Owosso branch of the Shiawassee District Library.

The meeting, organized by Citizens for Filtering Shiawassee District Library Public Access Computers, comes two days before the library board is set to meet to discuss a policy on regulating such content.

The group also took out three full-page ads in The Argus-Press and The Independent over the weekend expressing its view that adult materials shouldn’t be available on public computers at the library.

The library board is set to meet at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Owosso Middle School.

Library board member Beverly Adcock, who represents Bennington Township, said the board will discuss whether or not to allow two computers in the library to be unfiltered. The Shiawassee District Library began using program Untangle to filter the Internet on all its computers after the Board approved the move in June.

However, those involved in the movement say they want all the computers at the library to remain filtered. The group also claims the Untangle program is not effective and users can still access many inappropriate Web sites. Group member Ronald DeHaas operates locally-based company Covenant Eyes that sells Internet filtering software. He previously offered his program to the library at no charge.

The group also wants the Board to adopt a policy that requires children 13 or younger to be accompanied by a parent or guardian when accessing the Internet, and also requiring children between the ages of 10 and 18 to have permission forms signed by a parent or guardian before they can access the Internet, according to the Web site stoplibraryporn.com.

Gary Glenn, president of the American Family Association of Michigan, spoke to the audience for the majority of the meeting, explaining the legal side of the issue.

He said he believes it “boggles the mind” that some expect to use libraries funded by tax dollars to view adult content.

“What those who oppose filtering assert is that people have a First Amendment, Constitutionally-guaranteed right to look at pornography – at your expense – in a public building full of children,” he said.

He added in the United States Supreme Court case of United States v. American Library Association, Inc., the court found filtering Internet content at a public library is not a violation of the First Amendment.

“We can respect the other side having the opinion that the Supreme Court is wrong, but the Supreme Court has ruled,” Glenn said. “It’s over. It’s been decided by the highest court in the land.”

The controversy began when Owosso resident Catherine Loxen informed board members her 10-year-old granddaughter accidentally caught a glimpse of a man viewing adult material on a computer at the Owosso branch of the Shiawassee District Library.

“When we got to the parking lot she said, ‘Grandma, when we were leaving I looked directly into that man’s screen and I saw all these pictures of naked women.’ And I was just horrified,” Loxen said at the meeting. “My granddaughter, who is 11 now, no longer wants to ever go to the library.”

Glenn said many of the claims of Internet filters making it difficult to access non-pornography sites, such as breast cancer research, are outdated.

The statement was illustrated by Bill Lawson, a customer service manager for Covenant Eyes. Lawson showed the audience a variety of Web searches and sites that could be accessed while using Covenant Eyes software.

Some of the subjects he searched for and was able to access included sites for testicular cancer, sexually transmitted diseases, human sexuality and breast cancer.

“The technology has advanced to where these claims are really a false argument,” Lawson said. “As you can see, it is a little hard to find something that is blocked, unless you are actually looking for pornography.”

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