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Religious Right Protests Military Porn Policy

1996 Act Being Violated, Groups Say

Religious Right Protests Military Porn Policy
WASHINGTON - The Pentagon has come under fire from anti-pornography religious groups, according to USA Today, for continuing to sell adult fare including Playboy and Penthouse in its stores, which the protesters see as a violation of the 10-year-old Congressional measure barring sexually explicit materials from being sold on military bases.

The materials in question did pass the guidelines of the Pentagon's Resale Activities Board of Review, deputy undersecretary of Defense Leslye Arsht said in an Aug. 15 letter to the protesting groups.

"Based solely on the totality of each magazine's content, they were not sexually explicit," Arsht wrote. But Donald Wildmon, head of Christian group the American Family Association, argued, "They're saying, 'We're not selling stuff that's sexually explicit,' and we say it's pornography."

Agreed Patrick Trueman, of Christian legal group the Alliance Defense Fund, "They say, 'Well, 40 percent of this magazine is sexually explicit, but 60 percent is writing or advertising, so the totality is not sexually explicit.' That's ridiculous."

The original measure establishing the ban, The Military Honor and Decency Act of 1996, defined sexually explicit material as audiovisual or printed matter "the dominant theme of which depicts or describes nudity" or sexual activities "in a lascivious way." It was challenged as a violation of the First Amendment in 2002, but was upheld by a U.S. appeals court.

According to Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md., who sponsored the law, sale of such materials by the military could contribute to a hostile environment for female military personnel. "If soldiers want to read that stuff, they can walk down the street and buy it somewhere else," Bartlett noted. "I don't want [the military] to help."

What the law however engenders, asserted New York law professor and American Civil Liberties Union head Nadine Strossen, is censorship of what troops are allowed to consume in remote areas or combat zones.

"We're asking these people to risk their lives to defend our Constitution's principles," Strossen said, "and they're being denied their own First Amendment rights to choose what they read."
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