TRAMPLING LIBERTY TO THE DIRT - Right Here, Right Now In Ole Sunny Cal

(06/19/2002)

By Bob Weaver

Many Americans, while supporting the war on terror, are concerned about civil liberties, the basic rights which citizens hold dear to their hearts.

Most of us have not suffered indignity and oppression when basic human rights have been taken from us. Our freedoms and privileges are generally taken for granted on a daily basis.

Rabid conservative radio host G. Gordon Liddy says "We have seen a gradual erosion of our liberties since 9-11."

He is concerned about the expansion of government over liberties in the wake of 9-11, and recently used the quote "The people who trade liberty for security, end up with neither."

The trampling on the First Amendment has been a conflicting issue since the founding of our country. Media has sometimes abused their rights, annoying us on a regular basis.

A federal court recently rejected the use of filters to block objectionable material on the internet, based on constitutionally protected free speech. The court said such filters in libraries were flawed in sorting out the difference between pornographic sites and sites providing information and free speech views.

This decision will likely go straight to the U. S. Supreme Court.

While virtually no one wants porn available to children on the net, TV or anyplace else, the importance is finding a solution that does not destroy constitutional free speech rights.

The court heard testimony about tens of thousands of web pages that have been wrongly blocked by filter programs, including the West Virginia Department of Education blocking The Hur Herald as a porn site, identified by their filter.

Sites blocked included newsletters, medical information, political candidates, a Christian orphanage in Honduras, the Knights of Columbus among dozens of other venues.

We just had first hand experience when The Hur Herald was blocked on thousands of computer systems by a filter, the screen stating it was a pornographic site.

The West Virginia Department of Education, while showing empathy, did not assume any responsibility for blocking The Hur Herald. They said their filter program was doing its job, and placed the responsibility on The Herald to correct the error.

The local school system went to bat for The Herald.

Fortunately, The Herald was able to have the server company re-configure their access numbers, but if The Herald had been unable to do so, the site would have remained blocked on thousands of computers.

Numerous other violations of civil liberties and freedom of information have occurred with State Police "target lists," in Braxton County and the attempted ban of The Herald at public view scenes, shouting illegal orders, and threats of arrest when a crime had not been committed.

It has been, to say the least, intimidating.

In Braxton County, none of the county's three "free press" newspapers have printed a snippet about police activities and civil liberties. One Gassway businessman said "Sometimes the means justifies the end." But who draws the line?

Many people have chuckled a little about this stand-off with the State Police, but in fact, can you imagine what power and control "state police" can assume if we would let them get by with this.

There are several incidents here in Calhoun County that have raised eye-brows regarding State Police's investigations. A system of checks and balances should keep all of us more honest and responsible, and that involves reporting what happens.


Hur Herald ®from Sunny Cal
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