Religious groups outraged over Supreme Court's Internet porn decision

Yesterday's Supreme Court vote to block blocking the Child Online Protection Act (COPA) was awfully close, but religious activist groups are wholly united in decrying the decision.

The 5-4 decision did not reject the law entirely, but told a lower court to decide whether the law is the least restrictive way of limiting minors' access to online pornography. "This opinion does not hold that Congress is incapable of enacting any regulation of the Internet designed to prevent minors from gaining access to harmful materials," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority. But the majority all but said the lower courts must find COPA—which requires porn sites to require visitors to verify their age—unconstitutional, since it's not the least restrictive way to block minors' access. While the lower court decides the case, the justices said, the law can't be enforced.

"Content-based prohibitions, enforced by severe criminal penalties, have the constant potential to be a repressive force in the lives and thoughts of a free people," Kennedy wrote.

"It is unclear how the government can win the case after yesterday's ruling," writes The Washington Post.

That's Justice Stephen G. Breyer's take, too. "What else was Congress supposed to do?" he asked in his dissent, joined by justices Rehnquist and O'Connor (Scalia wrote a separate dissent). "It is always less restrictive to do nothing than to do something. But 'doing nothing' does not address the problem Congress sought to address—namely that, despite the availability of filtering software, children were still being exposed to harmful material on the Internet."

Well, said Kennedy, "By enacting programs to promote ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Weblog
Launched in 1999, Christianity Today’s Weblog was not just one of the first religion-oriented weblogs, but one of the first published by a media organization. (Hence its rather bland title.) Mostly compiled by then-online editor Ted Olsen, Weblog rounded up religion news and opinion pieces from publications around the world. As Christianity Today’s website grew, it launched other blogs. Olsen took on management responsibilities, and the Weblog feature as such was mothballed. But CT’s efforts to round up important news and opinion from around the web continues, especially on our Gleanings feature.
Ted Olsen
Ted Olsen is Christianity Today's editorial director. He wrote the magazine's Weblog—a collection of news and opinion articles from mainstream news sources around the world—from 1999 to 2006. In 2004, the magazine launched Weblog in Print, which looks for unexpected connections and trends in articles appearing in the mainstream press. The column was later renamed "Tidings" and ran until 2007.
Previous Weblog Columns: