Bible belt whipped into fury over 'sex'

May 24, 1996

Bible Belt morality and Internet sex do not mix - as the University of Oklahoma is discovering. The campus is the latest battleground in a national debate over electronic censorship.

This spring the university blocked access to about 100 news groups on the Internet labelled with the word "sex", apparently to mollify religious conservatives who had threatened its public funding. But university authorities are now being sued by one of their own faculty for violating constitutional rights to free speech.

The action has highlighted controversial plans to review students' e-mail for "illegal, immoral or inappropriate" content, including bomb threats.

Questions surrounding access to pornography on the Internet have troubled US academic institutions from the University of Memphis, Tennessee, to the Mormon-run Brigham Young University, Utah.

University librarians have joined the civil liberties debate over the new Communications Decency Act, which makes it a crime to make obscene materials available to children electronically and otherwise.

The law suit was brought by Bill Loving, an assistant journalism professor and untenured junior faculty member.

"I am not seeking access to pornography," said Mr Loving, "What I am suing over is the censorship of constitutionally protected materials."

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