The South Dakota State Library has now totally pulled down a teen section on its web site. The dispute started following complaints it contained a link to a Planned Parenthood site. The complaint that seems to have brought the most attention is when Robert Carlson, bishop of the Sioux Falls diocese of the Roman Catholic Church, wrote to Gov. Mike Rounds, a Catholic. Bishop Carlson certainly has a right to express his opinion. He does not have a right to dictate state policy. (Although in some fairness to Mike Rounds, he claims to have ordered the web site pulled after reviewing other links on the site, not just the Planned Parenthood link.)
What I find disturbing are Bishop Carlson’s comments. He wrote Gov. Rounds: “I believe the State of South Dakota must adopt policies and positions favoring chastity and abstinence over the ‘safe sex’ message now prevalent in our society. This issue is much too important to leave to a ‘balanced’ approach.” Once again, the Catholic Church in South Dakota demands adherence to its viewpoint. While libraries may not exist for the purpose of providing a balanced viewpoint, they do exist to allow people access to a wide enough range of information to allow them to make their own informed decisions. No issue is “too important to leave to a ‘balanced’ approach.” To the contrary, the more important the issue, the more crucial there be a balanced approach.
Is this censorship? Not in the strictest sense of the word. The government is not restraining or precluding any one from expressing an opinion or restricting access to those opinions. You can still find Planned Parenthood’s web site and its opinions through other means. Moreover, the State is not required to put any links on any of its web sites, let alone have a web site on this issue. But I do think serious legal and philosophic issues arise if the State provides links to only one viewpoint. That is exactly what Carlson demanded and, for a short time, the State’s response. Why does the Catholic Church fear knowledge?