Birmingham council bans atheist websites

Birmingham Council blocks its staff from accessing atheist and Wiccan websites – although it allows them to visit sites by established religions.

In what is hopefully just a case of an over-zealous, religiously-inclined sysadmin – and not a muliti-theocratic discrimination policy by the council itself – the Bluecoat Software allows staff to look at Christian, Hindu, Muslim and other religion sites, but blocks access to ” “witchcraft or Satanism […] occult practices, atheistic views, voodoo rituals or any other form of mysticism”.

This outrageous state of affairs is being challenged by the National Secular Society. Terry Sanderson, the president, told the BBC that they would first request that the policy be changed, and if that failed legal action would be taken:

It is discriminatory not only against atheists but they also are banning access to sites to do with witchcraft.
Witchcraft these days is called Wicca, which is an actual legitimate and recognised religion.
We feel very strongly that people who don’t believe should not be denied the access that people who do believe have got.

UPDATE: (4 Aug) This appears to be a false alarm. No deliberate discrimination was involved. Heresy Corner explains that it is simply a case of culturally confused American software, lumping atheism and voodoo in the same category.

4 Responses to “Birmingham council bans atheist websites”

  1. TigerDunc says:

    One can only hope that this is just poor software and not a conscious decision made by council staff or members. If that is the case though, please tell me where to send my donation to help fight this in the courts.

  2. Britannia says:

    Should not these council shirkers be working for the hard pressed taxpayers rather than surfing the internet.
    Council employees should be prevented from access to ALL religious web-sites, if the council employees want to look at that filth they should do it at home.

  3. lewis says:

    I work for this council. In response to Britania’s comment, although I agree with the basic sentiment, some of us have to look up information on the internet for customers as part of our jobs. I work in a library, and if someone came in and asked for the details of the Secular Society, or local Pagan groups, under this new software it appears I wouldn’t be able to help them. I’m absolutely disgusted by this and shall be taking it up with my colleagues and managers if it turns out to be true.

  4. Flotsam says:

    From what I’ve read elsewhere it looks more like a case of badly configured filters.

    From personal experience I know that staff can spend the whole day on social networking sites so I guess it’s down to what you want your council tax spent on – work or gossip. My organisation has some dedicated machines for staff to use for personal stuff during break times which seems like a fair compromise and also helps to keep the rest of the network safe.