United States v. American Library Association, Inc., 539 U.S. 194, 10 (2003)

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Cite as: 539 U. S. 194 (2003)

Opinion of Rehnquist, C. J.

based restriction on access to a public forum, and was therefore subject to strict scrutiny. Ibid. Applying this standard, the District Court held that, although the Government has a compelling interest "in preventing the dissemination of obscenity, child pornography, or, in the case of minors, material harmful to minors," id., at 471, the use of software filters is not narrowly tailored to further those interests, id., at 479. We noted probable jurisdiction, 537 U. S. 1017 (2002), and now reverse.

Congress has wide latitude to attach conditions to the receipt of federal assistance in order to further its policy objectives. South Dakota v. Dole, 483 U. S. 203, 206 (1987). But Congress may not "induce" the recipient "to engage in activities that would themselves be unconstitutional." Id., at 210. To determine whether libraries would violate the First Amendment by employing the filtering software that CIPA requires,2 we must first examine the role of libraries in our society.

Public libraries pursue the worthy missions of facilitating learning and cultural enrichment. Appellee ALA's Library Bill of Rights states that libraries should provide "[b]ooks and other . . . resources . . . for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people of the community the library

2 Justice Stevens misapprehends the analysis we must perform to determine whether CIPA exceeds Congress' authority under the Spending Clause. He asks and answers whether it is constitutional for Congress to "impose [CIPA's filtering] requirement" on public libraries, instead of "allowing local decisionmakers to tailor their responses to local problems." Post, at 220 (dissenting opinion). But under our well-established Spending Clause precedent, that is not the proper inquiry. Rather, as the District Court correctly recognized, 201 F. Supp. 2d 401, 453 (ED Pa. 2002), we must ask whether the condition that Congress requires "would . . . be unconstitutional" if performed by the library itself. Dole, 483 U. S., at 210.

CIPA does not directly regulate private conduct; rather, Congress has exercised its Spending Power by specifying conditions on the receipt of federal funds. Therefore, Dole provides the appropriate framework for assessing CIPA's constitutionality.


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