Washington D.C.- Illegal obscenity can and should be prosecuted under the Constitution, policy experts told Congress on Wednesday.
At a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee hearing, Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., affirmed two well-established legal principles governing the issue.
“First is that the Supreme Court has clearly and repeatedly held that obscenity does not merit First Amendment protection,” he noted. “The second is that the government has a legitimate and constitutionally valid interest in regulating obscenity through, among other things, the enforcement of relevant federal and state statutes.”
Bob Destro, a professor at the Catholic University of America, put a tough question to the committee about the goal and nature of obscenity enforcement.
“(Congress must decide) whether its goal is to score easy symbolic points,” he said. “Whether or not you are going to be in this to do some finger-pointing or name-calling, or whether or not you are going to regulate certain very specific behaviors that are both easily defined and not constitutionally protected.”
Former Justice Department official Pat Trueman, who headed the war against pornography for President George H. W. Bush, called for new Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to actively prosecute a broad spectrum of obscenity.
“If there’s a lack of prosecution, then the people don’t have a voice,” Trueman said. “The prosecutor substitutes his judgment for the judgment of the people, and juries who would decide these questions.”
But the recent indictment of a major interstate pornography distributor [Ed Wedelstedt] has Daniel Weiss of Focus on the Family encouraged. The 23-count indictment named seven individuals and their company on charges related to the operation of dozens of pornography stores in 18 states.
“This is the kind of case we’ve been waiting for,” Weiss said. “Now we need to see more of them.”