Indianapolis Public Schools changes discriminatory Internet filtering policy

Indianapolis Public Schools received considerable criticism in 2009 when its Internet filtering policy was made public and when complainants sent a copy to both FFRF and the ACLU. The policy improperly censored websites that provided information about “alternative spirituality/belief,” including atheistic views, as well as gay rights websites. The policy banned websites “that promote and provide information on religions such as Wicca, Witchcraft or Satanism. Occult practices, atheistic views, voodoo rituals or any other form of mysticism are represented here. Includes sites that endorse or offer methods of, means of instruction, or other resources to affect or influence real events through the use of spells, incantations, curses and magic powers. This category includes sites which discuss or deal with paranormal or unexplained events.”

“This section of the filtering policy is unlawful because it blocks harmless websites about various religious beliefs, or nonbelief, which are protected speech under the First Amendment,” FFRF Staff Attorney Rebecca Markert wrote in a Nov. 11 letter to the superintendent. Markert pointed out that “the filtering policy of Indianapolis School District is unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination under the First Amendment. . . . The policy blocking access to ‘atheist views’ prefers religion over nonreligion, which the government cannot do.” After several follow-up letters, the district responded in October that its Internet filtering policy had been amended on Feb. 24, 2010. The new policy includes anti-discrimination language and excludes the formerly discriminatory filtering policy language. — Bonnie Gutsch

Freedom From Religion Foundation