WASHINGTON – On Friday, four Members of Congress sent a letter to Attorney General William Barr urging the Department of Justice to prioritize the enforcement of existing obscenity statutes in order to crack down on illegal pornography. The letter called attention to the many social harms which have resulted from the recent explosion in obscene online pornography and highlighted a campaign promise made by President Trump to direct his administration to enforce these laws.
The signers of the letter were Reps. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.) and Brian Babin (R-Texas).
In response, Terry Schilling, executive director of American Principles Project, released the following statement praising the letter:
The recent explosion of online pornography has become nothing short of a national health crisis — one that is harming an entire generation in profound ways. Reports have highlighted the distressing growth of child sexual abuse material available online, while studies have indicated that children are being exposed to pornography at increasingly younger ages when their brains are still developing.
This is a serious problem that can no longer be ignored. It’s time for us to do something about it.
We applaud this effort by four courageous members of Congress to direct DOJ’s attention to this important issue. Obscenity statutes already exist that provide law enforcement with the tools they need to prosecute the creators and distributors of obscene porn, and federal law is especially strong in prohibiting its distribution to children (through 18 U.S.C. § 1460-1470). Moreover, the DOJ is now led by an attorney general who has past experience overseeing such prosecution. All that is now required is for DOJ to act.
If DOJ cannot enforce these existing statutes, we would encourage Attorney General Barr to offer clarity on the issue. How does DOJ define ‘obscenity’? Do certain types of online pornography qualify as ‘obscene’? And what can Congress do to help DOJ interpret these obscenity statutes?
We join Reps. Banks, Meadows, Hartzler and Babin in calling for the Department of Justice to fulfill the President’s pledge by prosecuting illegal online pornography, especially when it comes to its distribution to children.
Last month, Terry Schilling published an essay in First Things detailing a number of steps policymakers can take to better regulate pornography and protect children. You can read that piece here.
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