It Is Time To Prosecute Obscenity
By Mike McManus
March 3, 2010
In Columbus, Ohio three boys, aged 11, 12 and 14 were in Juvenile Court facing rape charges of children who were all under age 10. This was not an isolated incident. Columbus had a dozen similar cases.
Why? Probably the boys watched hard-core porn on line and wanted to try it themselves. There is virtually no enforcement of laws that make obscenity a crime. Since Obama became President not one obscenity case has been filed, and there were too few during the Bush II years.
Illegal hard-core pornography is flooding our society. It saturates the internet, cable/satellite. It's in hotels, libraries, convenience stores and is readily available to children and adults.
Sexting is the latest phenomenon among children who take pictures of themselves nude or performing sexual acts, and email them to friends.
Hardcore porn is addicting tens of millions of adults and is involved in up to half of all divorce cases, according to attorneys and therapists.
Contrary to common perceptions, "Obscene material is unprotected by the First Amendment," the Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled. In the landmark case, Miller v. California, The Court defined obscenity as "patently offensive representation of descriptions of ultimate sexual acts, normal or perverted, actual or simulated, and patently offensive representations of masturbatory, excretory functions, and lewd exhibitions of the genitals."
The Court provided a three-prong test that has held up in court in recent cases:
1. The average person, applying contemporary community standards, would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest; and
2. the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state or federal law; and
3. t he work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.
Just weeks ago, a federal judge in Washington DC declined to dismiss a case against "Max Hardcore" (John Stagliano and his company, Evil Angel Productions) who is accused of illegally trafficking hardcore pornography across state lines, a case initiated during Bush years.
Opinion polls in 2002 and 2004 found more than 80 percent of people think federal law against internet obscenity should be vigorously enforced.
The U.S. Justice Department has an Obscenity Prosecution Task Force led by Brent Ward, who is able and committed. But the FBI has refused to provide agents to investigate adult obscenity cases and none of 92 U.S. Attorneys have filed a case.
Patrick Trueman, who led Justice obscenity prosecutions in the Reagan and Bush I Administrations was given seed money by Morality in Media, a nonprofit organization fighting this plague, to launch a "War on Illegal Pornography."
He has outlined a four-fold strategy:
1. Enforce the Law. No new obscenity law is needed.
2. Prosecute criminal pornographers that are destroying lives of men, women and children. The FBI and U.S. Attorneys should file 8-10 major cases each year.
3. Mobilize pro-family and religious leaders to demand action. Catholics and Evangelicals and groups such as Focus on the Family, Concerned Women for America who were once active, need to fight again joining with feminists opposed to sexual trafficking,. They also must raise funds to hire a national staff to lead the battle.
4. Congress should demand action. When the FBI and Justice Department testify on behalf of their agencies for funding, they should be asked about their plans to enforce the law, and be given funds to crack down on the biggest pornographers.
The War Against Illegal Pornography is crucial. I applaud Pat Trueman's vision and strategy. No one is more capable of being the general of this new war.
However, this undertaking will be a very difficult. I know from experience.
I covered the meetings of The Attorney General's Commission on Pornography, appointed by then AG Ed Meese. The only other reporter regularly present was from Penthouse. The news media treated the issue as a joke.
I got the Report published, and wrote a lengthy Introduction and summary of its findings in 1986. However, neither Meese nor President Reagan commented on the Report until my edition of it was published that criticized their silence.
Fortunately, prosecution did become vigorous under such leaders as Pat Trueman. There were results from 1987-1994: 130+ obscenity indictments, 126 convictions, a sharp reduction in obscene materials, and most surviving porn companies would not ship to cities like Cincinnati where convictions occurred.
However, prosecution virtually stopped during the Clinton years. Under Bush II some cases were filed, but mostly for child pornography. Now another Democratic President is looking the other way.
If you are concerned, become informed by going to Trueman's website, PornHarms.com. Then urge your pastor and your Congressman to join this crucial war.
----Michael J. McManus is a syndicated columnist writing on "Ethics & Religion". He is President & Co-Chair of Marriage Savers. He lives with his wife in Potomac, MD
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