And a private group issues a study indicating a link between pornography and antisocial behavior.

U.S. Attorney General Edwin Meese has appointed a commission to examine the “nature, extent, and impact on society” of pornography. Eleven commissioners will begin holding public hearings this month, and they are expected to produce a major report on the issue within a year. Two well-known Christian leaders serve on the commission: James Dobson, of Focus on the Family; and Father Bruce Ritter, founder of Covenant House in New York City, a shelter for runaway teenagers.

The other commissioners include experts from the fields of clinical psychology, law, and public administration. Ellen Levine, a vice-president of CBS News, is a commissioner, as well as Deanne Tilton, president of the California Consortium of Child Abuse Councils. The commission is chaired by Henry Hudson, an Arlington County, Virginia, official credited with keeping pornography out of his community.

The panel’s charter calls for an assessment of how pornography has changed in recent years, how it is produced and distributed, how it affects antisocial behavior, and ways in which state and local efforts have succeeded in curbing it. The commission will recommend ways for federal and state government agencies to control pornography, “consistent with constitutional guarantees.”

A strong consensus exists that the nature and content of pornography have changed radically, although there is disagreement about the legal and constitutional implications of banning the sale of pornographic materials.

Pornography and obscenity issues first captured the attention of the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1950s. At issue then was the questionable use of “dirty words” in paperback novels. ...

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