United States v. American Library Association, Inc., 539 U.S. 194, 17 (2003)

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Opinion of Rehnquist, C. J.

Appellees urge us to affirm the District Court's judgment on the alternative ground that CIPA imposes an unconstitutional condition on the receipt of federal assistance. Under this doctrine, "the government 'may not deny a benefit to a person on a basis that infringes his constitutionally protected . . . freedom of speech' even if he has no entitlement to that benefit." Board of Comm'rs, Wabaunsee Cty. v. Umbehr, 518 U. S. 668, 674 (1996) (quoting Perry v. Sindermann, 408 U. S. 593, 597 (1972)). Appellees argue that CIPA imposes an unconstitutional condition on libraries that receive E-rate and LSTA subsidies by requiring them, as a condition on their receipt of federal funds, to surrender their First Amendment right to provide the public with access to constitutionally protected speech. The Government counters that this claim fails because Government entities do not have First Amendment rights. See Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc. v. Democratic National Committee, 412 U. S. 94,

Inc., 529 U. S. 803, 814 (2000); and Reno v. American Civil Liberties Union, 521 U. S. 844, 875 (1997)); see post, at 237-238 (opinion of Souter, J.). But these cases are inapposite because they addressed Congress' direct regulation of private conduct, not exercises of its Spending Power.

The dissents also argue that because some library patrons would not make specific unblocking requests, the interest of authors of blocked Internet material "in reaching the widest possible audience would be abridged." Post, at 225 (opinion of Stevens, J.); see post, at 242-243, n. 8 (opinion of Souter, J.). But this mistakes a public library's purpose for acquiring Internet terminals: A library does so to provide its patrons with materials of requisite and appropriate quality, not to create a public forum for Web publishers to express themselves. See supra, at 206-208.

Justice Stevens further argues that, because some libraries' procedures will make it difficult for patrons to have blocked material unblocked, CIPA "will create a significant prior restraint on adult access to protected speech." Post, at 225. But this argument, which the District Court did not address, mistakenly extends prior restraint doctrine to the context of public libraries' collection decisions. A library's decision to use filtering software is a collection decision, not a restraint on private speech. Contrary to Justice Stevens' belief, a public library does not have an obligation to add material to its collection simply because the material is constitutionally protected.

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