Yesterday, in a U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Utah
Senator Orrin Hatch challenged Attorney General Eric Holder about his
administration's policy of the enforcement of Federal obscenity laws, more
commonly known as hard-core adult pornography. Such content, which includes depictions
of graphic sex acts, group sex, bestiality, torture, incest, and excretory
functions has proliferated on the Internet with very little push back from
Because of the nature of current obscenity law, content
prosecutable as obscene is widely available on the Internet, not because it is
legal, but because it must be treated as "constitutionally protected"
until it has been prosecuted, received due process and proven illegal in a
court of law. Currently, prosecutions are at a standstill, and, as a result,
children, whom the government has a "compelling interest" to protect, continue
to have free and easy access to prosecutable pornography.
Because it is easier to do, prosecutors
often only pursue the low-hanging fruit-the most extreme material. Unfortunately, because many elected and
appointed prosecutors have ignored the need to protect children from exposure
to pornography, there is enough low hanging fruit to keep prosecutors busy for a long time.
Worse yet, purveyors of less extreme
material receive a loud and clear message that they get a free pass. A wiser approach would be to
aggressively prosecute the less extreme material meeting the three-pronged
Miller test, which serves as the basis for the obscenity statues. Successful
convictions of the "higher hanging" fruit would automatically send a message to
producers and distributors of all prosecutable pornography to abide by the
rule of law or risk the strong hand of enforcement.
Every commission, task force and summit that I have had the
privilege of serving on since the mid-nineties, represented by broad coalitions
consisting of conservatives, liberals and libertarians from both the public and
private sectors, have all agreed to the need for prosecution of
existing obscenity laws. The
Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section of the U.S. Department of Justice is
charged with a variety of critical programs to protect the welfare of America's
Children including fighting child pornography, child prostitution, child
trafficking and sex tourism. With
limited time and funding, weighing the allocation of Department resources is
certainly a challenge, but we encourage Attorney General Holder to take a
strong stand in the war against illegal pornography.
Graphic, hard-core pornography fuels the global sexual
exploitation of children, and the prosecution of this material should be no
less important than the Department's other efforts to protect children.
Pornography's relationship to rape, sexual violence, child molestation, sexual
illness, infidelity, predatory behavior, teenage pregnancy, desensitization,
sexual addiction, violence against women, child sex acts and more have been
widely documented. Despite the
good laws on the books, the carrot approach expecting the pornography industry to
self regulate has not worked-the industry has not and will not abide by the law
without the threat of the strong stick of aggressive law enforcement. The battle for the hearts and minds of our
children and our nation is worth fighting for, and we applaud those who continue
to fight to uphold our laws and do the right. We thank Senator Hatch for his
leadership on this issue, and we hope that others will join Senator Hatch in
encouraging the Attorney General to make it a priority to enforce our nation's
obscenity laws, for the sake of our children, families and our culture.
About Enough Is Enough
Donna Rice Hughes is President of Enough Is Enough (EIE), a non-partisan, 501(c)(3) non-profit
organization, which emerged in 1994 as the national leader on the front lines to make
the Internet safer for children and families. Since then, EIE has continued to
pioneer efforts to confront online pornography, child pornography, sexual
predation, cyberbullying and sexting with innovative programs, the most recent
of which is Internet Safety 101.