Free Speech vs. Anti-obscenity Laws
May 18, 2007
IRVINE, CA--A website operator is being charged with violating federal anti-obscenity law for writing and publishing stories depicting scenes of sexual abuse.
"Laws banning obscenity should be abolished," said Dr. Yaron Brook, executive director of the Ayn Rand Institute. "Once the government starts dictating what ideas we can and can't express it has discarded the principle of free speech and established a policy of censorship.
"It is no accident that the works in question are vile--the opponents of a right typically begin by attacking that right's unappealing practitioners. The advocates of censorship are counting on the fact that most Americans will find these writings repulsive, in order to undermine Americans' commitment to the principle of free speech. But this principle must encompass even writings that are repulsive. Once a policy of censorship is established, all unpopular speech is at risk of falling victim to the censor's pen.
"Yet the right to free speech is important precisely because it protects unpopular speech; it protects the dissenter's ability to promote his views without fear of government suppression or retaliation. Imagine the status of biology had Darwin not been free to publish his unpopular views--or the status of the United States had the opponents of slavery not been free to publish theirs. The only way to ensure that such views aren't suppressed is to demand that government leave us free to advocate any idea we choose, no matter how repugnant others may find it. Freedom requires that the government's role be strictly limited to punishing criminals for their actions. It should not criminalize ideas.
"All those who value the First Amendment and oppose censorship in America should demand an end to anti-obscenity laws."
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