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July 3, 2004
Column #1,192

                    Supreme Court Favors Obscenity, Not Kids

By the narrowest 5-4 margin the Supreme Court has once again permitted the free flow of obscenity on the Internet to children rather than to protect them.

"The high court keeps doing this, even though the sexual images in the media are destroying the innocence of our children and ruining our society," lamented Ted Baehr, Director of The Christian Film & Television Commission. "We must change the media, change lawmakers and change our judicial system. The lives of our children and grandchildren are at stake, as are the moral virtue and spiritual sanctity of America."

Morality in Media (MIM) gives evidence of countless children assaulted by sexual images: A stunning 84 percent of boys and 60 percent of girls aged 16-17 "stumbled" on Internet sex sites by accident and 38 percent of boys deliberately search the Internet for porn.

Most girls,13-18, say they can get around parents' rules, and 42 percent can get to a site of adults having sex.

"I was naive about the Internet," sighed a mother to MIM's President Robert Peters. "I thought you had to pay for pornography."

As recently as 2000, the Supreme Court declared that businesses that engage "in the sordid business of pandering" by "deliberately emphasizing the sexually provocative in order to catch the salaciously disposed...engage in constitutionally unprotected behavior."

To put it more bluntly, obscenity is not protected by the First Amendment.

Four years later the Supreme Court suffers from amnesia, unable to recall its own rulings. In rejecting the Child Online Protection Act (COPA), that imposed criminal penalties of as much as $50,000 a day on commercial Internet sites that make pornography available to kids younger than 17, the court said the government must show why the voluntary use of filters to screen out material unsuitable for minors would not work as well as criminal sanctions.

"Nonsense", said Justice Antonin Scalia, in a terse two paragraph dissent. "Since this business could, consistent with the First Amendment, be banned entirely, COPA's lesser restrictions raise no constitutional concern." Sadly, Scalia was in the minority of the 5-4 decision.

In 1996 Congress passed and President Clinton signed a law, the Communications Decency Act to protect children from obscenity. It was unanimously declared unconstitutional by the Court. So Congress went back to the drawing board and fashioned a more carefully drawn law that allowed adults full access to illegal obscenity that depicts sexual acts, but would restrict minors' access to it by requiring use of a credit card or adult personal ID. The law passed with only one Senator (Patrick Leahy) voting against it and a handful of Congressmen.

On Tuesday the Court said it liked filters on computers that "impose selective restrictions on speech at the receiving end, not universal restrictions at the source," as Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion.

The only glimmer of hope is that if the government can prove that filters do not work in a re-trial of the case, the Supreme Court said it would reconsider its decision.

Almost exasperatedly, Justice Stephen Breyer's dissent noted some flaws with filters that parents can place on computers to limit porn to their children:

1. The software "cannot distinguish between the most obscene pictorial image and the Venus de Milo."

2. It depends on parents willing to limit their children's access to the Web "and able to enforce it." That's not reasonable since 28 million school age children "have both parents or their sole parent in the work force." Many of these children "will spend afternoons and evenings with friends who may well have access to computers and more lenient parents."

The Supreme Court rejected the COPA law partly because it would not block foreign obscenity sites, accounting for 40 percent of the sludge. However, Breyer argued that limiting the other 60 percent is still significant.

Why is the Supreme Court more interested in protecting illegal obscenity than it is in protecting the health of children? By the vote of a single justice, millions of children will be corrupted.

Parents have two recourses: filter your computers with a free system offered by AOL or your provider. More important, buy a system that can track every site your computer has logged onto called Covenant Eyes (877-479-1119).

Wives: are you concerned about your husband's addiction? Men: do you need an accountability partner? Covenant Eyes would work for you too, at a cost of $6.95 a month.

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