The War on Illegal Pornography is being waged at a unique period in history. For nearly five decades, the battle to protect individuals and families from the devastating effects of pornography—addiction, exploitation, family disintegration, violence against women and children, and increased crime—has been fought.
In the 1980s, great gains were made as the United States Department of Justice began to prosecute violations of federal obscenity laws. Pornographers in many parts of the country responded to the threat of prosecution by self-regulating and pulling potentially illegal material off their shelves. Unfortunately, in the past twenty years we’ve seen pornography and its effects reach a pandemic level, only a handful of prosecutions of pornographers have occurred. In fact, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder shut down the Obscenity Prosecution Task Force in the Criminal Division of the U.S. Department of Justice.
New social science research has emerged linking pornography to a plethora of society ills—sex trafficking, child abuse, domestic violence, and divorce. Simultaneously, medical research documenting how pornography harms brain function is now available, yet it is still relatively unknown to parents, medical personnel, legislators, and law enforcement.
These new causalities can be used to galvanize support for a renewed war on this harmful and illicit material. In late 2009, after repeated attempts to influence the Department of Justice to enforce existing obscenity law, a new strategy was proposed. In 2010 we successfully formed a large and broad Coalition of organizations that agreed to enlist their members by the thousands and tens of thousands to pressure appropriate Congressional committees and Congressional leaders of each party to instruct the Justice Department and FBI to enforce the obscenity laws.
This effort is called the War on Illegal Pornography.
We call on all groups to unite in this cause as a Coalition for the War on Illegal Pornography. We call on everyone—families, women’s and children’s rights advocates, faith-based groups, business leaders, medical personnel, elected officials—to join the Coalition and work together in order to stop the growing amount of hard core pornography available in America.
While we still have the law on our side, proof of these harms and people willing to speak up, it is imperative that we act now!
What Are the Laws On Pornography?
Federal obscenity laws, which are not being enforced, prohibit distribution of hardcore, obscene pornography on the Internet, on cable/satellite or hotel/motel TV and in sexually oriented businesses and other retail shops.
The role of the Federal Government should be, as it has been in the past, to prosecute the major producers and distributors of obscene pornography. However, rather than aggressively enforcing federal obscenity laws against large-scale distributors of obscene pornography, for several years the Department of Justice has targeted primarily small operations that trafficked in the most extreme hardcore pornography and prosecuted very few of them. Thus, illegal, obscene pornography is flooding our nation and the harm is great. Much can be done based on the following:
The 93 U.S. Attorneys (each state has at least one) enforce the Federal obscenity laws. FBI Agents, Postal Inspectors and Customs Officers investigate violations of Federal obscenity laws.
Enforcement of obscenity laws does not raise any Constitutional problem – In Chaplinksy v. New Hampshire, 315 U.S. 568, 571-572 (1942), the Supreme Court said: “There are certain well-defined and narrowly limited classes of speech, the prevention and punishment of which have never been thought to raise any Constitutional problem. These include the lewd and obscene…It has been well observed that such utterances are no essential part of any exposition of ideas, and are of such slight social value as a step to truth that any benefit that may be derived from them is clearly outweighed by the social interest in order and morality.
Obscenity is not within the area of constitutionally protected speech or press – In Roth v. United States, 354 U.S. 476 (1957), Justice Brennan observed that “this Court has always assumed that obscenity is not protected by the freedoms of speech and press” (at 481). In Roth, the Supreme Court went on to hold that obscenity is “not within the area of constitutionally protected speech or press” (at 485).
First Amendment was intended to protect ideas and debate, not obscene material – In Miller v. California, 413 U.S. 15, 34 (1973), the Supreme Court said: “[T]o 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. It is a ‘misuse of the great guarantees of free speech and…press.’”
More recently, in Ashcroft v. ACLU, 535 U.S. 564!(2002), the Supreme Court rejected a constitutional challenge to application of obscenity laws to the Internet. See also, United States v. Extreme Associates, 431 F.3d 150 (3rd Cir. 2005), cert. den., 547 U.S. 1143 (2006).
In Paris Adult Theater I v. Slaton, 413 U.S. 49, 57 (1973), the Supreme Court identified “legitimate governmental interests” that justify a prohibition on obscene materials “even if it is feasible to enforce eðective safeguards against exposure to juveniles.” These include protecting the community environment, public safety, morality and family life. The Court also said there is a “right of the Nation and of the states to maintain a decent society” (at 59).
The display of pornography is also a frequent factor in workplace sexual harassment cases, and time wasted viewing pornography reduces worker productivity. Our nation’s role in polluting the world with pornography is also making the war against terrorism more diðcult. Common sense should also inform us that when children are exposed to graphic depictions of hardcore adult pornography their attitudes about sex, sexual desires and sexual behavior can be influenced for the worst. And especially on the Internet, large numbers of children are being exposed to hardcore adult pornography.
According to the results of a national opinion poll commissioned by Morality in Media and conducted by Harris Interactive in April 2008: 75% of adult Americans said they would support the next President were he to do all in his or constitutional power to ensure that federal obscenity laws are enforced vigorously.
How to get SOBs out of your community:
A Primer On Zoning And Licensing Of Sexually Oriented Businesses – Though SOBs have some First Amendment protection, county and town councils can AND SHOULD use zoning and licensing authority to control their negative secondary effects. SOBs can, in fact be regulated in a more stringent fashion than other types of businesses that have no First Amendment protection. (Written by Alliance Defending Freedom)
How To Get Porn Out Of Video Stores – Here is a blueprint for action against the sale and rental of hardcore pornography in your community’s “mainstream” video store(s). (Written by Robert Peters, President Emeritus of Morality In Media)
Studies on SOBs
The purpose of these studies is to inform and alert municipalities regarding the law on sexually oriented businesses and on ordinances that have passed judicial scrutiny.
- Nude Dancing Survey of Laws and Rights
- Manual on Massage Parlor Regulation
- Construction of Open Booth Regulations (back room with contiguous booths for the viewing through a glass of a female in a sexually explicit sexual activity)
- Lap Dancing and Table Dancing Ordinance Preparation
- Swingers Club Case Law Study
- Escort and Outcall Ordinance Preparation
Definition of Pornography:
The term “pornography” is a generic, not a legal term. As noted by the Supreme Court in the landmark 1973 obscenity case, Miller v. California, 413 U.S. 15, 20, n.2, the term “pornography” derives from the Greek (harlot, and graphos, writing). The word now means “1: a description of prostitutes or prostitution 2. a depiction (as in a writing or painting) of licentiousness or lewdness: a portrayal of erotic behavior designed to cause sexual excitement.” (Webster’s Third New International Dictionary [Unabridged 1969])
Definition of Obscenity:
The term “obscenity” is a legal term, and in Miller v. California, the Supreme Court established a three-pronged test for determining whether a “work” (i.e., material or a performance) is obscene and therefore unprotected by the First Amendment. To be obscene, a judge and/or a jury must determine: First, that the average person, applying contemporary community standards, would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest; AND second, that the work depicts or describes in a patently offensive way, as measured by contemporary community standards, “hardcore” sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable law; AND third, that a reasonable person would find that the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political and scientific value. (NOTE: Typical “hardcore pornography” [e.g., a website, DVD or magazine] consists of little if anything more than one depiction of hardcore sex after the other [i.e., it’s “wall-to-wall” sex].)
The National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCSE) hosted an influential symposium right in the U.S. Capitol building, July 14th 2015, which presented compelling social and medical research about the public health crisis of pornography. The room was packed to the maximum capacity with representatives from Congress and other influential government leaders, along with members of […]
On Tuesday, July 14th, the National Center on Sexual Exploitation hosted a symposium right in the U.S. Capitol building on the public health crisis of pornography. The latest medical and social research was presented to a room packed with members of the press, the public, and representatives of members of Congress. The room quickly overflowed […]
Law Stops Pornographers from Exploiting Children in Porn Washington, DC – The National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCSE) is pleased that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit has upheld key provisions of the Child Protection and Obscenity Enforcement Act of 1988 requiring pornographers to keep records of all actresses and actors in […]
Congress intended that the Communications Decency Act help protect children from exposure to Internet pornography. Instead, this law provides blanket website immunity for sites like Backpage.com
For the last 6 years, we have worked to try to get U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to enforce federal obscenity laws – and thus to help curb sexual exploitation. He refused and even disbanded the task force appointed to do such cases.
Coalition effort launched to get federal obscenity laws enforced after U.S. Department of Justice under the direction of U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and President Obama make it clear that they will not enforce any obscenity laws.
Hosted a briefing on Capitol Hill about the harms from pornography and need for enforcement. The room was filled to capacity.
Hosted first online conference for general public and began organizing public to pressure U.S. Congress to help get laws enforced.
Through WOIP Coalition, hundreds of thousands of concerned citizens call, email and write letters to their Congressional representatives asking to support and sign a letter addressed to Attorney General Eric Holder that demands prosecution of obscenity cases.
Almost half of the U.S. Senate and dozens of House members sent letters to Attorney General Eric Holder, laying out some of the harms of pornography and demanding vigorous prosecution of federal obscenity laws. Many Congressional leaders have someone in their offices assigned to deal with the issue of pornography and to help them stay informed about the issue.
Attorney General, Eric Holder, is questioned in key Congressional hearings in both the House and Senate for failure to enforce obscenity laws.
Launched an effort to contact all 2012 Presidential candidates and secure their support for enforcement of obscenity laws. The three leading 2012 GOP Presidential candidates agree to enforcement of laws if elected: Governor Romney, Senator Santorum, Former Speaker Gingrich.
Congress asked for a Congressional Hearing on the pandemic of harm from pornography. WOIP is promised a hearing by key Congressional members.