When a Catholic politician known for his conservative stance on moral
issues allies with the local chapter of the National Organization for
Women, the issue at stake must be important.
According to Virginia Delegate Dick Black and Marie-José Ragab, president
of the Dulles chapter of NOW, sexual harassment through Internet
pornography is an important issue.
When Black, a parishioner at St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Great
Falls, was elected to the Loudoun County School Board almost one year
ago, he had no idea it would lead him to the fields of battle against
Internet pornography in Loudoun County Libraries.
For the past year Black has been attempting to have Internet access in
local libraries filtered so children cannot have access to the
pornography which is so easily accessible on the Internet.
He succeeded in getting a total pornography ban policy enacted but
several special interest groups, most notably Mainstream Loudoun, have
opposed him every step of the way, bringing the case to court and
enacting a law suit against the library board and each board member.
Ragab was attracted to the case because Black built his policy around
Title Seven of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibits sexual
"Several rulings surrounding Title Seven have established the fact that
pornography in the workplace creates a sexually hostile environment which
leads to the subjection of lawsuits," said Black.
The unlikely alliance between Black and Ragab came as a result of a
meeting suggested by Karen Gounaud, president of Family Friendly
Libraries. Gounaud thought that Black's policy, which she calls, "the
best and most protective policy for women and children in the country,"
would interest Ragab's group since they had rebelled against the national
organization of NOW and took an anti-sexual harassment stance on the
Paula Jones case.
Since Black had chosen to focus his fight against library Internet
pornography with the sexual harassment angle, Ragab felt that the
alliance was a natural one.
"It would be unacceptable for us not to work with him on the basis of our
other beliefs," said Ragab.
"We don't think we are doing anything unusual. We are working within our
statement of purpose — the point is for groups to work together for the
good of all."
Black recognized that his cause would benefit from an alliance with a
group with such political clout as NOW. He knew he would need outside
support when his policy was opposed by mainstream special interest groups
and also when faced with the prospect of his policy being overturned. The
Board of Supervisors for Loudoun County are likely to elect three new
members to the library board who might overturn Black's pornography ban
Polls taken around the time of Black's February election to the Virginia
House of Delegates showed that 84 percent of voters supported his total
ban policy and thus, according to Black, popular opinion is being
manipulated by a select few. Black credits the strong resistance to the
fact that there is "massive economic interest at stake in the vice and
corruption" of Internet pornography.
Ragab has sent letters to 17 NOW chapters in Virginia urging them to
support Black. She says that this is a "very good test to challenge their
stance on sexual harassment." Her group has officially demanded the
resignation of national NOW leaders because of their lack of support for
this issue which Ragab says has "divided women very much."
In her letter to the other chapters, Ragab says, "While the matter is
presently confined to Loudoun County, an area of Dulles NOW, the case is
closely watched by public libraries across Virginia and the rest of the
nation, for this has the makings of a Supreme Court ground-breaking
Both parties recognized that if pornography is provided in public places
at the government's expense, this would be a huge setback for women's
rights and a barrier to all anti-sexual harassment laws. Black and Ragab
agreed that a merger on the issue there would provide "a greater
political dynamic at work."
When he first met with Ragab, Black made his conservative and pro-life
stance on all issues clear and both agreed to focus on fighting
pornography and not discuss other issues. Ragab also initiated contact
with the International Women's Forum, a politically conservative group
which has agreed to lend their support to Black's policy.
Both are convinced that if the case reaches the Virginia Court of
Appeals, it stands a lasting chance in establishing permanent
anti-pornography access legislation.
"We feel confident that if we get to the Appeals Court we can prevail,"
said Black. "But there is powerful economic interest working frantically
to make sure we never reach the appeals court."
Black called this case one of "first impression — no other case has ever
compelled a public library to stock pornography." He knows the case is
capable of setting a national precedent.
The problem is pressing. "It is very clear that this is a major problem
in public schools," said Black. "There were over 75,000 porn sites on the
Internet when we started this battle and the number has grown by 230 per
According to Black, "opposition to cyberporn crosses party lines."
Although their political and ideological differences remain, Black
welcomes the needed support.
"We came together on this single issue," said Black. "And we will join
forces and battle."