Tuesday, June 29, 2004

A Victory for Freedom of Speech

It's great to see the Supremes holding the schoolmarms in check: the AP is reporting that they've just struck down the Porn-Shield Law (aka COPA). This ridiculous law is just the sort of thing that ensures I will never be comfortable in the company of social conservatives.

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that a law meant to punish pornographers who peddle dirty pictures to Web-surfing kids is probably an unconstitutional muzzle on free speech.

The high court divided 5-to-4 over a law passed in 1998, signed by then-President Clinton and now backed by the Bush administration. The majority said a lower court was correct to block the law from taking effect because it likely violates the First Amendment.

In considering the issue a third time, the court did not end a long fight, however. The majority voted to send the case back to a lower court for a trial that could give the government a chance to prove the law does not go too far.

[............]

The law, which never took effect, would have authorized fines up to $50,000 for the crime of placing material that is "harmful to minors" within the easy reach of children on the Internet.

The law also would have required adults to use access codes and or other ways of registering before they could see objectionable material online.
"Won't someone think about the children?" Nowadays the first refuge of political scoundrels seems to be claim that their favorite new initiatives are "for the children", and this is no exception: someone really ought to tell these people "If you don't want your kids surfing porn, don't buy them a PC!"

That the surfing habits of other peoples' children should be permitted to interfere with what adults are permitted to see and discuss is a manifest absurdity, but it all becomes easier to understand if one appreciates that Ashcroft's efforts to go after pornographers has nothing at all to do with "the children", and everything to do with forcing the religious norms of one section of the populace down the throats of all the rest. One would think someone with a plate as full as Ashcroft's would have better things to do with his time than harrass people for posting smutty pictures - aren't there enough terrorists and other assorted bad guys out there to keep him busy?