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US Supremes decline Net academic-freedom appeal

America emulates banana republic

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The US Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear an appeal by six university professors objecting to a Virginia law which prevents public employees from using state-owned computers to access sexually explicit content on the Internet, the Associated Press reports.

The professors argued successfully in 1999 before a federal judge that the 1996 law violated their First Amendment rights, but a US appellate court overturned the finding, ruling that the state has every right to decide what its equipment may and may not be used for.

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) lawyers argued to the Supremes that state-employed scholars have a right to academic freedom for job-related research, but the Court let the ruling stand without comment.

The professors said that the law had already interfered with their work, the wire service notes. One said he had been unable to assign students online research assignments about indecency laws; another said he was prevented from researching sexually explicit themes in the work of certain poets; and another said the law bans research on sexually explicit subjects in psychological literature.

According to the AP, Virginia Attorney General Mark Earley defended the law, saying that state employees do not have a First-Amendment right to decide for themselves whether sexually explicit material was required for their professional research and writing.

The state, apparently, is to decide what material is appropriate for academic inquiry. Sounds positively third-world to us. ®

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