Tuesday, November 13, 2007

"The Lone Dissenter"

Well at least that's what the AJC is calling me.

First I owe a debt of gratitude to the many friends and family members who provided moral support and advice in the days leading up to this meeting.
Thank you Snowflake for proof-reading my notes and helping me remove the LDS specific references that would have been confusing to a non-LDS audience.
Most importantly, thank you Victoria for talking me into going in the first place and then attending with me. Because of you I never really felt like a "lone dissenter". The more nervous I became the more convinced I became that this was the right thing to do.

Here are few links to news clips and articles about the Library board meeting.

Atlanta Journal and Constitution

CBS 46 video

Gwinnett Daily Post

And here are my notes from my presentation:

I’d like to start by thanking the Library Board for this opportunity to speak.

Thank you.

In response to the fervor around this issue I asked the board for a chance to publicly state that I agree with the current policy on internet use at the public libraries

I realize that there are many people in attendance today who will not understand my position. I hope that I will be able to convince you that I agree with the moral values you are trying to teach. I simply disagree with your strategy and ultimately whose job it is to teach them.

I have been a patron of the Gwinnett County library system for over 30 years. I have many memories of riding my bike to visit the library when it was in the basement suite at the intersection of Five-forks and Rockbridge. Now, my family of six uses your library system pretty much daily. I am also a Boy Scout scoutmaster over a small troop that meets at a church that is less than one mile from a library branch. I serve in a leadership position over the youth at the same church. I personally find pornography repugnant and degrading to both men and women. I have a real vested interest in the morality of our society and am working hard to teach all those in my charge the value of making correct choices.

With these credentials you may find it surprising that I support the current internet use policy. The truth is I get very scared when any one group tries to decide what is moral and correct for somebody else.
I respect your use of internet filters that would prohibit illegal images to be displayed. However, the stated goal of my opposition today is to restrict the legal access by adults to images that they find objectionable.

This is where I draw the line. When it comes to legal websites that may simply contain material that may be objectionable to someone else, I could give you a long list of images that I personally find to be objectionable but I do not expect the library to restrict access to this legal information simply because I object to it.

On the other hand in the past year I have read many books and accessed websites about the evils of polygamy. I have recently read a book which details the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. I like to read information on both sides of an issue before I form an opinion. As such I have even accessed material that is very critical of mainstream Christianity. I am sure much of this material would be very objectionable and possibly even considered pornographic to someone who was just looking over my shoulder while walking around the library.

If taken out of context by a passerby I can think of many situations that could be described as vulgar or pornographic but taken in context are far from it.

A medical student viewing an anatomy website.

A criminal justice student looking at crime scene photos.

A nervous mother-to-be viewing images of child-birth.

A teenager viewing a youtube.com video about how to protect herself from date-rape.

A mother looking for more information about a surgery that her child is about to undergo.

A woman afraid she might have breast cancer viewing a site with details on how to give a self examination.

My church preaches modesty in dress and as such we discourage two piece bathing suits and any outfit that shows any part of a woman’s torso. As such will any image that includes a belly button be filtered?

The Amish, Mennonites and some other Christian denominations take this morality a little bit further and find exposed human skin on the arms and legs to be offensive and immoral. Are we going to protect our Amish library visitors from being offended?

Some cultures require even more covering for their women that the Amish. Some find any visible female skin to be offensive. I have sat next to library patrons several times who were wearing full burkas. Should we filter based on their morality?

The dilemma here is that if we allow legal images to be restricted based on morality, then whose morality do we use? There is no way that the library can be expected to shield other patrons from accidentally viewing material that anybody may find objectionable.

My family already has filters in place to protect our children. Those filters are my wife and myself. We have educated our children as to what behavior is acceptable and what books and websites we will not allow to be viewed. They know that if someone else is involved in behavior that we find immoral that they are to walk away and not participate. The images that I described above are already available in countless books in the library system and every single day, during warm weather, my son has to walk into the library and see girls that he believes are immodestly dressed.

The library system is not a baby-sitting service and the librarians are not our children’s nannies. Get involved in their lives. Attend the library yourself. Help them select the books and websites that they choose to read. If they are old enough to leave them unattended show up early to pick them up periodically and see what they have been doing. In short, let’s do our job as parents. Let’s not surrender our parental responsibility to a software package, the librarians and the county government.

This is where I ran out of time but I felt it was just a good a way to end as any so I simply said thank you and sat down.

These are the few paragraphs that I had to leave out:

Just this week my wife and I found out that a popular, award winning children’s book had themes that we disagree with. We will not allow our children to read that material and we have educated them as to why so in the future they will be able to make that decision for themselves. As offensive as this particular book is I am sure that there is not a single software package out there that could make this decision for us. No filtering software can protect my family from immorality. That’s why I am acting as that filter and I am teaching my children to filter themselves based on our own morality and not someone else’s arbitrarily assigned values.

Please continue to allow me to be in control of what I decide to view while using library resources. Our country’s founders would be proud that you have chosen to stand up for the first amendment and refuse to censor this media.

I believe that our freedom of choice is a sacred trust that was given to me by my God. I honor Him by choosing as He would wish, not by restricting the ability of others to choose good over evil.

Thank you.

My only fear during this whole process was that in standing up for freedom of choice and parental responsibility that people would think that I was advocating pornography.


  1. Mike...I saw the article yesterday in the AJC. You conveyed yourself and your thoughts very well. I can't see how anyone would suspect your position on pornography to be any thing but "totally against"

    You need to change the name of your blog from "Free Philo......" to

    The Lone dissenter

    keep up the good work.

  2. Anonymous2:14 PM

    those last paragraphs are powerful... a shame you had to leave them off. I am proud to call you my brother.


  3. Any man more right than his neighbors, constitutes a majority of one. -- Thoreau

    I, too, am proud you are my brother.

  4. Michael, I watched the video of the news broadcast and you can be very proud that you spoke from the heart and what you believe. It's far too easy for people to get caught up in the hysteria created by a few, pretty soon you find you're at the small end of a losing battle. I hope the battle is not over for you yet.

    Political correctness if I might call it, has gone absolutely mad. We have just had the instance over here in one of our states in Australia where the Santa Clauses were instructed to keep the "ho ho ho" brief and replace it with "ha ha ha" in an effort to not offend with the word ho. For goodness sakes, Santa has been saying ho a lot longer than the word has even been used in the other context and we don't even use it over here.

    Political correctness gone mad. Good luck with it all, I hope it's not yet over for you.

    (Sorry for not being brief in my comments, I started and couldn't stop).

  5. Well done sir!!!

    Keep fighting the good fight. I suspect there are many people that agree with you yet are too apathetic to let their voices be heard. You have done the right thing by letting your voice sound out.