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February 12, 2005
Column #1,224

                    
     Justice Inaction Emboldens Pornographers
                               
     Adelphia Communications, America's 5th largest cable company recently announced that it will soon be providing hard core pornography, so-called "Triple X" programming. "The more Xs the more popular," said an Adelphia spokesman.
 
     "I think they made a really smart business decision," said Tim Connelly, publisher of Adult Video News, the industry's trade journal. "So today Adelphia, tomorrow Wal-Mart."

     Other cable companies, such as Time-Warner, Cox and Comcast plus DirecTV have been offering hard core porn for some time. Adelphia's previous owners had spurned such business as "immoral." Its new owners concluded Aldephia ought to tap into this lucrative source of funds.

     Of course, visitors to Hilton, Marriott and other hotel chains, have long offered sexually explicit videos on LodgeNet or On Command.

     However, all of these companies know that federal criminal law prohibits cable and satellite providers from distributing hardcore obscene material. Why would major corporations risk criminal prosecution?

     "Adelphia felt safe in offering illegal obscenity because they know that the Department of Justice (DOJ) will not prosecute them," charges Don Wildmon, Chairman of the American Family Association. "By their inaction, DOJ has indicated that they will not prosecute any cable system or Internet provider showing hardcore pornography. During the past 12 years the distributors and retailers of obscenity have had an open door to distribute their product while DOJ looked the other way."

     It was one thing when the Clinton Administration stopped prosecuting obscenity under Attorney General Janet Reno. But little was done during George W. Bush's first term. Attorney General John Ashcroft promised he would reverse years of neglect, but even appointed Drew Ooserbaan, a holdover from the Clinton Administration, to head the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section.

     Few major distributors of obscenity have been prosecuted. And there have been no cases filed against cable, satellite, or hotel chains who are reaping hundreds of millions in profits.   

     There was a similar reluctance by Reagan's Attorney General Edwin Meese, to prosecute obscenity. He appointed an Attorney General's Commission on Pornography, which unanimously approved 92 proposals to enforce existing laws or strengthen them.

     It provided evidence of the material's harm. For example, rapists are 15 times as likely as non-offenders to have had exposure to hardcore pornography "during childhood or between six and ten years old." In the 1980s few children had access to obscenity, but it is ubiquitous today on the Internet which children begin seeing at very tender ages. The harm is incalculable.

      In 1986 I wrote the Introduction to a commercially published "Final Report of the Attorney General's Commission on Pornography" in which I noted that both Meese and President Reagan had shied away "from publicly endorsing the document."  However, the leaders of major religious denominations created a Religious Alliance Against Pornography.

     Led by the late Cardinal Joseph Bernadin and Rev. Jerry Kirk of Cincinnati, the group included three Catholic Cardinals, the Orthodox Bishop of North America, seven bishops of United Methodist, Episcopalian, Orthodox and Catholic Churches, the elected leaders or top staff of Southern Baptists, Nazarenes, Assemblies of God, National Association of Evangelicals, Mormons and even the left-leaning National Council of Churches.

     These leaders gathered in 1986 on the steps of St. Patrick's Cathedral. "As religious leaders, we believe in the inherent dignity of each human being," said Bernadin. "Created in God's image and likeness, the human person is the clearest reflection of God's presence among us." He said one "assault on human dignity" was "hardcore and child pornography," issues surfaced by the Obscenity Commission.

     "We are in unanimous agreement that hardcore and child pornography, which is not protected by the Constitution, is an evil which must be eliminated." 

     They pushed Meese to hire competent attorneys who prosecuted dozens of major wholesalers of obscenity.  In the last two years of the Reagan Administration and over the four years of the first Bush Administration, there were dozens of prosecutions of major pornographers. Some went to jail and others paid such high fines they declared bankruptcy.

     It is high time for America's current religious leaders to take a similar stand with the Bush Administration. In fact, the Religious Alliance Against Pornography still exists and could exercise leadership for this generation.
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