Monday, November 26, 2007

Protecting our families and churches from Internet pornography; court decisions on pornography and obscenity

Pornography in its various forms (magazines, videos, films, online, etc) is a 12 to 13 billion dollar industry that’s wreaking havoc on families and churches. And yet, according to Kerby Anderson’s article “The Pornography Plague” in, “Christians are often ignorant of its impact and apathetic about the need to control this menace.”

Children are the target of online pornographers. According to a 2002 report by the prestigious London School of Economics, “9 out of ten children aged between 8 and 16 years have viewed pornography on the Internet. In most cases, sites were accessed unintentionally when a child used a seemingly innocent sounding word to search for information or pictures.”

Please surf to my Salt and Light blog for the complete article on how to protect our families and churches from Internet pornography.

US Supreme Court rulings on obscenity and pornography

The provisions of the Philippines’ 1987 Constitution on freedom of the press, speech and religion are derived from the United States Constitution. Thus, our Supreme Court in deciding cases on these issues usually looks for guidance and authority at decisions made by the United States Supreme Court. Our Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in Estrada vs. Escritor on freedom of religion, for example, is replete with citations from US decisions.

I think it was US Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter who said, “I can’t define what obscenity is but I will know it when I see it.” The US Supreme Court has defined and clarified what "obscenity" is in several rulings:

1. Roth v. United States, (1965): Obscenity was not protected by the First Amendment. Federal, state, and local laws apply to the sale, display, distribution, and broadcast of pornography. Pornographic material, therefore, can be prohibited if it meets the legal definition of obscenity.

2. Miller v. California, 1973: A legal definition of obscenity must meet the three part test: [1] If it appeals to the prurient interest; [2] is patently offensive, and [3] lacks serious value (artistically, etc.) then the material is considered obscene and is illegal.

3. Paris Adult Theatre v. Slaton, 1973: Material legally defined as obscene is not accorded the same protection as free speech in the First Amendment. Even if obscene films are shown only to "consenting adults," this did not grant them immunity from the law.

4. New York v. Ferber, 1982: Child pornography was not protected under the First Amendment even if it was not legally defined as obscene under their three- part test. Since children cannot legally consent to sexual relations, child pornography constitutes sexual abuse.

In 1984 the US Congress passed the Child Protection Act which provided tougher restrictions on child pornography. In the Philippines, we have RA 7610 or the “Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act.” With regards pornography and obscenity, Article V of RA 7610 states:

Sec. 9. Obscene Publications and Indecent Shows. - Any person who shall hire, employ, use, persuade, induce or coerce a child to perform in obscene exhibitions and indecent shows, whether live or in video, or model in obscene publications or pornographic materials or to sell or distribute the said materials shall suffer the penalty of prision mayor in its medium period.

If the child used as a performer, subject or seller/distributor is below twelve (12) years of age, the penalty shall be imposed in its maximum period.

Any ascendant, guardian, or person entrusted in any capacity with the care of a child who shall cause and/or allow such child to be employed or to participate in an obscene play, scene, act, movie or show or in any other acts covered by this section shall suffer the penalty of prision mayor in its medium period.
The penalty of prision mayor (medium period) is from 8 years and one day to ten years, while the maximum period is ten years and one day up to twelve years.