Loading
Enforcement of Obscenity Laws Is Not ‘Censorship’

Morality in Media receives many inquiries from the public about the word "censorship."  Censorship still exists in many countries, where newspapers and other media must first submit articles, books, films, etc., to a Government authority for approval before they can be published.  With a few exceptions (e.g., to protect national security in time of war), “censorship” is not practiced in the United States.

From a historical perspective, the word "censorship" means prior restraint of First Amendment rights by government.  Enforcement of obscenity laws is NOT censorship because, first of all, the government is not imposing a prior restraint on the pornographers.  The porn purveyors are free to publish whatever they want, but if what they distribute or exhibit is obscene, they are, after the fact, subject to prosecution under the obscenity laws. As the Supreme Court said in Near v. Minnesota, 283 US 697, 714 (1931):

“In the first place, the main purpose of such constitutional provisions [i.e., the First Amendment's freedom of speech/press provisions] ‘is to prevent all such previous restraints upon publication as had been practiced by other governments,’ and they do not prevent the subsequent punishment of such as may be deemed contrary to the public welfare…”

Second, the Supreme Court has repeatedly held that the First Amendment does not protect obscene materials.  As the Court said in California v. Miller, 413 U.S. 15, 24, 34 (1973):

This much has been settled categorically by the Court, that obscene material is not protected by the First Amendment…. [I]n our view, to equate the free and robust exchange of ideas and political debate with commercial exploitation of obscene material demeans the grand conception of the First Amendment and its high purposes in the historic struggle for freedom…

Many members of the public mistakenly believe that the First Amendment's “free speech” liberties cover everything that is written, spoken, or pictured.  Not true.  As the Supreme Court put it in Roth v. United States, 354 U.S. 476, 483 (1957): “[I]t is apparent that the unconditional phrasing of the First Amendment was not intended to protect every utterance.”

Here's a short list of “speech” that can be punished after publication without violating the First Amendment: perjury, contempt of court, libel, false advertising, fraud, copyright & trademark infringement, inciting a riot, threats, harassment, child pornography, and obscenity.  It is also important to remember that the First Amendment does not restrict actions by private citizens.  A publisher, for example, has every right to choose which books to publish and which not to publish.

Here are some examples of what “censorship” is NOT:

The federal or a state government enforcing child pornography or obscenity laws

The FCC enforcing the broadcast indecency law (after broadcast)
Citizens demonstrating in front of sexually oriented businesses
Citizens contacting TV networks to protest sex, violence, and vulgarity on television
Citizens boycotting stores that sell pornography
A video store choosing not to sell or rent pornographic videos
A newspaper refusing to permit ads for topless bars or "adult" theaters

 

Printed with permission from Morality in Media, Inc.

 

 

 

Ads by Google
(What's this?)

RESOURCES »

Ads by Google (What's this?)
Ads by Google (What's this?)

Featured Videos

Pope Francis celebrates the closing Mass and announces site of next World Youth Day
Pope Francis celebrates the closing Mass and announces site of next World Youth Day
Pope Francis visits poor neighborhood and meets with young people from Argentina
Pope Francis celebrates Mass at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida
Denver rally draws hundreds in support of religious freedom
Pope Francis prays over a sick man in St Peter's Square
Denver women's clinic will offer natural, Catholic care
Interview Clips: Barbara Nicolosi speaks to CNA
US Cardinals press conference at North American College
Pope Benedict to retire to monastery inside Vatican City
Pope cites waning strength as reason for resignation
Hundreds convene in Denver to urge respect for life
New Orange bishop encourages Catholic unity in diversity
Chinese pro-life activist calls for reform, international attention
At Lincoln installation, Bishop Conley says holiness is success
Mother Cabrini shrine reopens in Chicago after a decade
Ordination of 33 deacons fills St. Peter's with joy
Cardinal says "Charity is the mother of all the virtues"
Augustine Institute expands evangelization effort with new campus
Bishops recall 'Way of St. James' as chance to trust in God
Los Angeles cathedral's newest chapel houses Guadalupe relic
Apr
20

Liturgical Calendar

April 20, 2014

EASTER SUNDAY OF THE RESURRECTION OF THE LORD

All readings:
Today »
This year »

Catholic Daily

Gospel of the Day

Lk 24:13-35

Gospel
Date
04/20/14
04/19/14
04/18/14

Daily Readings


First Reading:: Acts 10:34a, 37-43
Second Reading:: Col 3:1-4
Gospel:: Jn 20:1-9

Homily of the Day

Lk 24:13-35

Homily
Date
04/20/14
04/19/14
04/18/14

Ads by AdsLiveMedia.com

Ads by AdsLiveMedia.com
     HTML
Text only
Headlines
  

Follow us: