View from the choir

I am a Catholic layperson and Secular Franciscan with a sense of humor. After years in the back pew watching, I have moved into the choir. It's nice to see faces instead of the backs of heads. But I still maintain God has a sense of humor - and that we are created in God's image.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Porn in the library - and the ACLU

The local public library has found itself in the middle of an First Amendment/porn/government funding battle.

The policy at the central branch library in Rochester is that all computers are filtered to keep young people away from objectionable material. But you can get the computer unfiltered if you are above a certain age and ask for it to be done.

A local television station did a report showing that some people are doing this to watch porn on the library computers, and that these computers are within view of other patrons, including children.

When our county executive (Maggie Brooks) heard this, she threatened to pull all county funding – the bulk of the library’s budget – unless the library blocks the computers so that people can’t view porn where children and other patrons can see what they are watching.

As you might guess, the ACLU galloped in to defend 1st Amendment rights.

As far as I know, Brooks is not obliged to support the library, so she does have the power to withdraw county funding. And I certainly agree with the notion of public funds not being used to pay to support something many people find morally objectionable (alas, there are some government actions I consider morally objectionable that I do have to pay for).

I think what we may end up with is the libraries can't completely block porn where there can be reasonable limits (ACLU side) and the county does not have to pay.

Such an outcome could hurt the library - and all of us.

That gets me to my main point. If this leads to funding cuts, we all end up getting screwed.

But that is just another example of how pornography is NOT a victimless crime - ooops, sorry, a victimless 1st Amendment protected activity.

Pornography distorts our view of sexuality and relationships. It turns people into objects. It debases and exploits the people involved in the industry. And don't give me that crap about they choose to be involved. So many of those people are addicted, used, and so on.

Look at someone like Anna Nicole Smith and tell me porn is victimless.

Even if we don't use porn ourselves, we are all affected by it. We are all victims of it.

Under our Constitution, porn is permitted. But some folks - including me - think there are higher moral and ethical laws.

7 Comments:

Blogger lar said...

As one 51-year old blogger to another I'd like to say, well done. I'd also like to point out that porn is not permitted under our Constitution directly, but is permitted under the court rulings which interpret the Constitution. As I recall the compromise was based on local standards, but the prevalence of internet porn has made community standards moot.

1:24 PM  
Anonymous Clare said...

So what exactly is the ACLU claiming is protected under the 1st amendment with regard to public viewing of porn? I don't think there's any protection for something like that. If they can't challenge the laws that restrict it to 18+, I think they would be hard pressed to argue that it is illegal to block people from viewing it where children have a chance of seeing it. Most of the protections only extend to private viewership and creation, not to public display. I really dont' think they have a chance in court, so I wouldnt' worry too much.

5:45 PM  
Anonymous Richard Grabman said...

There's a contradiction in your arugment, Lee. IF, as you say, porn is pernicious, then it should be banned for everyone, right? So should other pernicious thoughts and ideas. Who gets to be "Grand Inquisitor?" What if he's a Southern Baptist, or... God Forbid, a danged lib-u-ral with ideas about "political correctness"?

Second, your implication is that such pernicious material is permissible -- IF A PERSON CAN AFFORD IT. It's interesting, but pornography as a social issue only arose with cheap printing technology. The fear was not that such material was imaginable, but that "the masses" could access it. Are you taking the elitist point of view that wealth = morality? I didn't realize you were a Calvinist.

What about those who can't afford computers (and internet access... and a telephone connection)? Or books, for that matter? There are dangerous books in the library that maybe shouldn't be seen by minors too (Mein Kampf, Origin of Species, the Koran, the poems of St. John of the Cross!). Who decides what is, and what is not permissible?

And... here's the real kicker. I'm not gonna get into a theology-slingin' match with you, but doesn't "free will" figure in here somewhere? Unless you're willing to turn your life over to some benevolent dictator (and no dictator I've ever heard of was benevolent to all) the only choice you and I have in an imperfect world is tolerating each others' imperfections.

So... can't they have an adult reading (er... viewing, downloading, scanning) room?

1:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh... and very tongue in cheek (one hopes)... perhaps THIS publically available dangerous product should be banned...

http://thebibleletter.com/

2:16 AM  
Blogger Lee Strong said...

Dick, you say, "IF, as you say, porn is pernicious, then it should be banned for everyone, right?"

Hmm. This is a Catholic site, as I note in my description at the top, so I cite the Catechism of the Cathollc Church about pornography (#2354)which defines what pronography is, then states "It is a grave offense. Civil authorities should prevent the production and distribution of pornographic materials."

I agree.

You go on to note "your implicationis that such pernicious material is permissible -- IF A PERSON CAN AFFORD IT."

Under current law it is permissible. But so are smoking, drinking, etc. If a person chooses to engage in those activities - and I am not calling for banning them, by the way - then he should buy it with his own money. Are you saying we should pay for these things or that government money should provide them? I say no, and the same with porn.

Dick, you add "doesn't "free will" figure in here somewhere?"

Sure. I can choose to do something, even if it is illegal and immoral. But part of free will is the willingness to accept the consequences of may actions. So I can choose to look at porn (whether it is legal or not), but the pernicious effects of it help to distort my views of others and sexuality, and harm my ability to form healthy, normal relationships with others. And my choices also affect other people, harming them directly and indirectly (helping to undermine their values, their views of sexuality and themsleves, and their abilities to form healthy relationships) and thus I face the consequesnces for doing that as well. Jesus was quite clear about this when he mentioned the millstone around the necks of those who lead others astray, (Mark 9:42).

5:59 AM  
Blogger Karen Marie said...

Then, of course, there's the problem of even having automated filtering of the net. Yes, it keeps out porn. But, it usually can't tell the difference between "sex" and "Essex" "Sussex" and "Anne Sexton"; discussions of breast fetishism from breast feeding and breast cancer; male potency from testicular cancer discussion; documentary war images from gratuitous gore....... and, usually, sites that question the filtering decisions are routinely filtered.

This caused no end of grief when I worked for a public library --- which finally decided to filter only the computers in the children's room and control the others by public observation and banning patrons who broke the rules and weent to porn sites --- and occasionally arresting them.

11:33 AM  
Blogger Lee Strong said...

Lar - good point. The courts are exercising their function of interpreting the law, but sometimes I think they read more into it than is there (Roe v Wade beign a prime example).

Karen Marie - also a goodpoint. They were lifting the filters so that people could research things like breast cancer. The perverts abused that right, and the library did not have enough staff to get around to all the computers on a regular basis. We have two building and multiple floors at our main library, all with computers.

Perhaps a compromise would be to only have a few computers in a designated area that could be unfiltered (and suprvised).

4:38 PM  

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