Many Americans falsely assume that the Bill of Rights, in guaranteeing free speech and freedom of the press, opens the door for pornography. They do not see how or where a line can be drawn. They fear, moreover, that laws restricting pornography might one day be perverted to inhibit religious freedom. Thus people who have only disdain for pornography may think little can be done to stop it. And because they feel their hands are tied, producers and retailers of obscene materials are getting rich.
The First Amendment to the United States Constitution declares that Congress shall make no law “abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press …” Admittedly, this could be taken to mean unlimited license, and some smut peddlers have tried to defend their trade in this way. They have also exploited legislative loopholes, inadequate enforcement, and permissive judicial decisions. These factors, plus a populace that is largely indifferent to or ignorant of what can be done, are what make possible a multi-billion-dollar-a-year pornographic “industry.”
Everyone concedes that some restriction of expression is necessary to an orderly society. Even the smut peddler. He would want the law to protect him from threats of bodily harm. He would want doctors, lawyers, pharmacists, and air controllers to be prohibited from subjecting him to fraud and deceit. He would not want a store to be allowed to label as salt a can that contained lye.
The framers of the Bill of Rights implicitly but clearly demonstrated that freedom of personal expression cannot be defined so broadly that another’s freedom is jeopardized. The Fourth Amendment, for example, in restricting property searches asserts that “no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported ...1
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