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March 07, 2002 12:53pm
Dickinson College Debate Condensed 03/01/2002
Source: Free Speech Coalition
by: William Lyon

On February 20, 2002 at Dickinson College in PA, William Lyon, Executive Director of Free Speech Coalition debated Ms. Robin Whitehead of the National Obscenity Law Center, a project of Morality in Media, founded by Father Morton L. Hill. The nominal subject of the debate was "Internet Porn: Current Perspectives and Controversies." Following is Mr. Lyon's opening statement.

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, I'm really glad to be here and I want to thank the Public Affairs Symposium committee for inviting me. It is apparent that Dickenson is a liberal arts college in the grand tradition. There are many institutions of higher education where this debate could not take place, and that is sad. Today, when so called "political correctness" replaces individual thought and the free expression of opinion on many campuses, we are in danger of losing the philosophy of individual freedom and responsibility that carried this country to greatness. Political correctness has opened the doors to tyranny, bigotry, and, most seriously in my view, the "dumbing-down" of our future leaders to think about complex issues in simplistic terms.

Now before we go any further, I think I should clarify something so that you folks won't be confused. Both Ms. Whitehead and I are here under false pretenses. I'm the "dirty old man" who defends porn and parties with girls like Nina Hartley and Danni Ashe. That's just my "cover story."

My worthy opponent, Robin Whithead, says she is here to protect our children. She is a concerned citizen and I respect her right to express her thoughts to you. "Protecting our children." is something, I believe we all can agree is good. But, you see that's her "cover story."

I'll explain in a minute. But first, I'm sure you've all heard the saying, "You can't get the right answers if you don't ask the right questions." it is questioning that has brought us together today. Think for a moment what would our country be like if you were not Allowed to freely ask any question you chose to ask if you were not Allowed to freely access the information you seek. What if you could be persecuted, or PROSECUTED, for discussing a subject with your friends.

Today we are going to talk about the expression of sexual thoughts in the public marketplace. We are going to talk about access to materials that are controversial. We are going to talk about protecting our children from harmful matter. But to understand what we will REALLY be talking about, you must ask the right questions.

I want to read you three quotations:

First, "The government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion."

Next, "Our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, more than on our opinions in physics and geometry.... the legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg."

Finally, "Religion and government will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together."

John Adams made the first statement; the second was made by Thomas Jefferson and the third by James Madison, the three men who most profoundly affected the formation of our nation. They all three recognized the problems of allowing beliefs grounded in religion to affect the decisions of government and, from history, they know the terrible consequences that had occurred as a result.

These were men of the Enlightenment. They subscribed to the Rights of Man. They believed, with other educated men of their time, that human beings are rational, and because of that, no authority, human or god, can demand their blind obedience. The rational person must be left free to access available information, decide what is best, and then to act accordingly. They believed that human beings are basically GOOD, so there was no need to restrict their exposure. The good person will arrive at good decisions that will promote the good life. From this thinking developed the argument for "inalienable rights." the concept that reason demands freedom and that freedom allows one to pursue happiness.

Jefferson, Adams and Monroe were Deists. They believed that a God created the world and its natural laws, but takes no further part in its functioning. They believed in the existence of a God on purely rational grounds without reliance on revelation or authority. That is without a Bible or the appearance of angels, devils or miracles; and most certainly without any priest or clergy to set forth rules for individual conduct.

Jefferson was emphatic. He said, "I have examined all the known superstitions of the world, and I do not find in our particular superstition of Christianity one redeeming feature. They are all alike founded on fables and mythology. Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined and imprisoned. What has been the effect of this coercion? To make one half of the world fools and the other half hypocrites; to support roguery and error all over the earth."

So this is what I want you to consider: You recall I said earlier that I had a cover story and so did Ms Whitehead. Well here it is, I don't care a damn about porn. I've seen it and it gets boring fast, especially for someone my age. What I do care about is your right to decide that for yourselves. That is, Your Right to chose what you read, view or discuss. Our Founders decided a long time ago that, in this nation, the government should not decide such things for you. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution clearly states "Congress shall make No laws not Some laws, or a Few laws, but No laws regarding the practice of religion, or the free access to information, or the citizens' right to get together and talk about any subject they might chose.

Ms Whitehead's wants to protect children, but in truth she is presenting the views of the conservative religious right. Every plan and scheme she will present leads to one end: To Take Away the right of each of you to decide what you will view read or discuss.

One more thing, Ms. Whitehead talks about child pornography, and legal and illegal pornography and obscenity as though they we the same and interchangeable. That is a trick to confuse you. Let's be clear. Pornography is legal, constitutionally protected material. There is no such thing as illegal pornography. The U.S. Supreme Court has said that "obscenity" is not protected by the Constitution. However, material can only be declared "obscene" in a trial where a local jury comes to the conclusion that said material violates the standards of their particular community.

The term "Child pornography" is a contrivance; a trick to confuse your views. What we are really talking about is the Criminal sexual abuse of children that is recorded or photographed by sick individuals for their own titillation or to titillate others.

I am totally opposed to it! The industry that I represent is totally opposed to it! In fact, over the past three-an-a-half years the industry has found more than 7,500 Internet files showing the sexual abuse of children and has submitted them to the FBI and U.S. Customs for prosecution. The adult industry can proudly claim that we are doing more to stop the sexual abuse of children then any other group.

I am confident that as you listen to our individual views and weigh our responses to your questions, you will come to the sound conclusion that each of you should have the right to exercise free choice.

Thank you.

[At this point Ms. Whitehead explained her view of the "virtual child porn" law and why it is needed. Mr. Lyon responded as follows.]

First, I am not totally opposed to this law, only the parts that are over-broad and designed with the motive of accomplishing something far larger in scope than is implied in the subject title of the law,

As I have stated, "Child Pornography" is a propaganda phrase. It is an attempt to put pornography, child pornography, and obscenity into one tidy bundle for the purpose of eradicating all adult entertainment by implying that it, in some ill-defined way, harms minors. It is inaccurate and demeans the horror of the reality.

The correct term for expressing that horror is child sexual abuse. It is already a crime. The photographing / videotaping such activity is already a crime. No further law is needed.

Now please understand, in order for there to be a crime the law states that a child, a real child, must be sexually abused. Therefore, if there is no real child involved, there can be no child sexual abuse. No child, no crime!

Ms. Whitehead and the folks of the religious right want to broaden the law so that anyone who "appears to be" a legal minor engaged in sexual activity, even implied sexual activity, would constitute a crime. But a 26-year old, made up and costumed to represent a character 17-years-old, is not involved in an act of sexual abuse of a child. A cartoon featuring kids in a sexual position does not involve the sexual abuse of a child.

But the law as written could do far worse. At our appearance before the U.S. Supreme Court on October 30, 2001, Justice Bryer suggested that such a law would make the films Traffic, Titanic, Lolita and Romeo & Juliet criminal acts.

There's another thing the religious right would like to eliminate -- any discussion of teen sexuality or teen sex problems. They prefer the old "let's put our heads in the sand" approach to sexual reality. If we don't look at the problem, it isn't there.

Second, this law is the solution to a problem that does not yet exist. Ms. Whitehead talks as though computer generated art is indiscernible from a photo of real people. Anyone who can't tell the difference between a computer generated character and a real one desperately needs eye surgery.

Finally and most sadly, the whole approach is hypocritical. The causes of child sexual abuse are very complex. Its roots are expressed in psychological terms such as "Authority figure," dominance," and repression. That's where the religious right attempts to play magician. As you all know, the secret of magic is misdirection. The magician makes you look away from the place where the "trick" is being performed. By directing your attention toward adult materials, the religious right attempts to keep you from seeing the real problem. Dr. William Stayton, a wonderful speaker at one of the sessions yesterday put it very well: Repression Leads to Obsession.

A sexually repressed adult and a lonely confused child, who sees that adult as an authority figure, is the explosive combination that leads to sexual abuse. That's why the majority of child sexual abuse occurs within the family, or with a close friend of the family, or a relative. Studies indicate that most individuals who become abusers have, themselves, been abused when they were young, and that they often express strong, rigid religious beliefs. Natural human sexual urges repressed by fundamentalist belief systems lead to a state of conflicted personality that may seek resolution in the abuse of helpless children.

If you think I'm wrong, consider that in the past couple of months more than 80 priests in the Boston archdiocese have been named as sexual abusers of children. In the past decade more than 400 priests, clergymen and church workers, from a variety of faiths, have been charged with, and convicted of the sexual abuse of children. To the best of my knowledge, only 1 person in the Adult Entertainment Industry has ever been so charged, and the charge was dismissed.

So, Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, American Family Association and Morality in Media, look to your own houses for the problem. If you are honest, you will admit that the sexual abuse of children has nothing to do with the Adult Entertainment Industry.

[This article was sent to members and supporters of the Free Speech Coalition because we believe you will find the following material of interest. Thanks for your time.]

Kat Sunlove
Legislative Affairs Director
Free Speech Coalition

[Thank you to the Free Speech Coalition for permission to re-print. -Ed.]

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