WASHINGTON, D.C.—Republicans are back in power (well, partly) and so of course it's time for all the conservative religious and religious conservative groups to begin beating the drum for more obscenity prosecutions—never mind that the government's last attempt to do so met with less-than-sterling results.
Even as rumors have been flying around First Amendment legal circles for weeks that Attorney General Eric Holder has abolished the Obscenity Prosecution Task Force—it was one of four main topics discussed at the recent legal seminar at the XbizLA conference—and even as the two Task Force attorneys assigned to prosecute John Stagliano—Pamela Stever Satterfield and Bonnie Hannum—appear to have left the unit, former DOJ prosecutor Patrick Trueman, recently tapped to become CEO of Morality In Media, orchestrated letters to be sent to both Holder and several well-known anti-porn senators calling for stepped-up scrutiny of sexual commerce.
The "bipartisan" letters, one from Reps. J. Randy Forbes (R-VA), a well-known anti-porn activist, and "Blue Dog" Mike McIntyre (D-NC)—he voted against TARP, healthcare reform; was the only Democrat to vote against repealing "Don't Ask Don't Tell"; and is a co-sponsor of H.R. 3, the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act—and the other from Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), who unfailingly questions and browbeats judicial nominees regarding their views on porn, push the lie that "Research continues to show that hardcore adult pornography is increasingly harmful, addictive ... and linked to other crimes such as domestic violence and sex trafficking."
Hatch's letter urges his fellow senators (and possibly House members as well) to sign onto a letter, likely written by Trueman, urging the Justice Department to "vigorously... enforce federal obscenity laws against major commercial distributors of hardcore adult pornography," reminding Holder that in 1998, as Deputy Attorney General under Janet Reno, he authored a memo to all of the U.S. attorneys around the country urging them to give prosecutorial priority to "large-scale [adult video] distributors who realize substantial income from multistate operations and cases in which there is evidence of organized crime involvement."
The letter also references an "important briefing in the Capitol" last June which "outlined how porngraphy has changed, becoming more harmful, addictive, and available, and linked to other crimes."
"Researchers, scholars and other experts explained, for example, how today's hardcore pornography is typified by extreme violence against women and how pornography consumption can contribute to sexual harassment and sexual violence," the letter continues. "Another expert warned that internet adult pornography normalizes sexual harm to children, while another addressed the growing connection between pornography and sex trafficking. You should also be aware that the next version of the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual will include a disorder that encompasses pornography addiction."
That last point, of course, would be "obsessive-compulsive disorder," a well-known syndrome long included in the manual that can manifest as obsessive/compulsive hand-washing or even praying.
The "briefing" to which the letter refers was part of Trueman's group PornHarms.org's efforts to buoy the bogus findings of the Witherspoon Institute's pseudo-study, "Social Harms of Pornography," and included as speakers anti-porn activists such as Trueman, Donna Rice Hughes, Prof. Gail Dines, Dr. Mary Anne Layden and Shelley Lubben.
"Simply put, we know more than ever how illegal adult obscenity contributes to violence against women, addiction, harm to children, and sex trafficking," the letter continues. "This material harms individuals, families, and communities and the problems are only getting worse... As you know, adult obscenity is not protected by the First Amendment. Congress has for decades passed laws seeking to curb the production and distribution of obscene pornography, including on the Internet. A consistent and strong commitment to enforcing these laws can have a significant impact."
In fact, even obscenity is protected by the First Amendment as well as the Ninth Amendment.
The current rash of anti-sexual-speech actions may have been prompted by the fact that February 6, 2011 was the 100th anniversary of President Ronald Reagan's birth, and wingers have been quick to recall that it was his Attorney General's Commission on Pornography, overseen by Attorney General Edwin Meese, that has been responsible for much of the anti-porn legislation of the past 20 years.
"[T]his vicious sexual industry is polluting the minds and spirits of America’s children," Reagan said, as quoted in an email from Morality In Media president Robert Peters. "We can’t make America great again without remembering that America was great because America was good; and when we cease being good, we cease to be great... We are a Judeo-Christian nation, bound by deeply held beliefs and values... We abandon them at our own peril..."
Also jumping on the anti-porn bandwagon is the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, headed by outspoken anti-porn clergyman Dr. Richard Land, who told constituents in a recent email that, "What you may not know is that the U.S. Supreme Court has affirmed the First Amendment does NOT protect obscene material. In fact, federal laws prohibit most forms of pornography distribution, including through the Internet and cable/satellite TV... Regrettably, our government is not enforcing existing federal laws against pornography. We ask for your help right now to reverse this course."
"Relaxed attitudes toward human sexuality have turned the biblical notion of wholesome and monogamous sexual relations between husbands and wives on its head," the group's email continued. "Scriptural standards of sexual morality have been abandoned; God’s design for sex has been perverted beyond recognition. Pornography perverts and distorts all of the God-given purposes for sexual intimacy."
"The nation is flooded with illegal adult pornography in almost every medium," Trueman added on February 10, "which is providing fuel to the fire of child pornography, destruction of marriages and families, addiction of children and adults, and an increase in sex trafficking, yet the U.S. Department of Justice has not indicted any distributers of such material in the past two years."
Perhaps General Holder is remembering the trouncing his obscenity team got last summer at the Stagliano trial—or perhaps he's simply wondering how foolish his department will look wasting all that money trying to suppress material that, by the wingers' own admission, is viewed by 28,258 people every second?