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The Society of Biblical Literature affirms the responsibility of the leaders of the United States to protect and preserve the freedoms that are the foundation of our democracy; and that libraries are a critical force for promoting the free flow and unimpeded distribution of knowledge and information for individuals, institutions, and communities.

The Society of Biblical Literature holds that suppression of ideas undermines a democratic society; and that privacy is essential to the exercise of free speech, free thought, and free association; and, in a library, the subject of users' interests should not be examined or scrutinized by others.



Certain provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act, the revised Attorney General Guidelines to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and other related measures expand the authority of the federal government to investigate citizens and non-citizens, to engage in surveillance, and to threaten civil rights and liberties guaranteed under the United States Constitution and Bill of Rights.



The USA PATRIOT Act and other recently enacted laws, regulations, and guidelines increase the likelihood that the activities of library users, including their use of computers to browse the Web or access e-mail, may be under government surveillance without their knowledge or consent.



The Society of Biblical Literature opposes any use of governmental power to suppress the free and open exchange of knowledge and information or to intimidate individuals exercising free inquiry.



The Society of Biblical Literature encourages all scholars to educate their colleagues and communities about the process for compliance with the USA PATRIOT Act and other related measures and about the dangers to individual privacy and the confidentiality of library records resulting from those measures.



The Society of Biblical Literature also urges scholars everywhere to defend and support user privacy and free and open access to knowledge and information.



The Society of Biblical Literature will work with other organizations, as appropriate, to protect the rights of inquiry and free expression, and will take actions as appropriate to obtain and publicize information about the surveillance of libraries and library users by law enforcement agencies and to assess the impact on library users and their communities.



The Society of Biblical Literature urges all libraries to adopt and implement patron privacy and record retention policies consist with the fulfillment of the mission of libraries.

The Society of Biblical Literature considers that sections of the USA PATRIOT ACT are a present danger to the constitutional rights and privacy rights of library users and urges the United States Congress to:



1) Provide active oversight of the implementation of the USA PATRIOT Act and other related measures, and the revised Attorney General Guidelines to the Federal Bureau of Investigation;



2) Hold hearings to determine the extent of the surveillance on library users and their communities; and



3) Amend or change the sections of these laws and the guidelines that threaten or abridge the rights of inquiry and free expression.



The Council of The Society of Biblical Literature

February 2003

Contact:

Kent Harold Richards

Executive Director

Professor of Old Testament

Citation: , " Council Resolution - Academic Freedom and the Patriot Act," SBL Forum , n.p. [cited March 2006]. Online:http://sbl-site.org/Article.aspx?ArticleID=136

 
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