1st Amendment Be Damned – Save the Troops From Playboy!

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Did you know that men and women fighting for our country are not allowed to obtain pornography while on military property? No porn. They can kill and maim and torture and risk plenty of the same, but we must spare them the real evil of viewing sexually explicit images – or at least having them readily available.

I’m not surprised that fundamentalist groups lobby for this, but I am shocked that it was ever enacted. In 1996 Congress passed the Military Honor and Decency Act, which prohibits

(1) the Secretary of Defense from permitting the sale or rental of sexually explicit material on property under Department of Defense (DOD) jurisdiction; and

(2) a member of the armed forces or a DOD employee acting in an official capacit
y from providing such material to another person.”

The legislation was justified by the need to protect the “military’s image of honor, professionalism and proper decorum,” and to foster character and moral principal in the armed forces. (Vaessen, 1999)

The ban’s sponsors, Reps. Christopher Smith (R-NJ), Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD) and Robert Dornan (R-CA), have argued that pornography represents “an assault on military families” who use the stores regularly. The availability of pornography to troops, they claim, “undermines the well-being of [military] families” and “can also compromise [America’s] defense readiness.” Interesting.

Once the bans passed Bartlett concluded

“We’re one day closer to an end to the disgraceful and indefensible practice of the Defense Department distributing smut on military bases.”

Even today, ten years later, when we’re at war in a country for questionable motives, using questionable wartime practices, Christian groups are up in arms (so to speak) because the DoD’s pornography restrictions are not strict enough. Dear God, our troops have access to Playboy! This USA Today article deArmypinuptails current arguments about the ban.

But really, how did this ever get passed and why is Congress wasting time debating it?

I found an informative breakdown of the ruling by Robert L. Vaessen, TSgt in the US Air Force with more than 20 years of military experience, who was plenty irritated by the bill at the time. He renamed it The Military Dishonor and Indecent Act of 1996, and chronicled the legislation’s passing.

The bill was never opened for vote on the House floor, but was instead referred to the House Committee on National Security, where it was later attached to the annual National Defense Authorization Act, which specifies the budget and expenditures for the Defense Department. The only way to defeat the legislation on pornography would have been for President Clinton to veto the entire NDAA.

The constitutionality of such legislation has since been questioned by Federal Judge Shira Scheindlin who, in response to proposed legislation in 1997, asserted that

our Constitution has effectively protected us for over two centuries from living in a society where the Government intrudes on our individual rights by deciding what consenting adults can read or view.’

Nevertheless, the ruling went through and remained unchanged until 2006, which saw the introduction of DoD 410570, an amendment that allowed for an item-by-item review to assess the degree of pornographic content. (Wonder who served on that committee?)  This led to magazines like Playboy and Penthouse reemerging on military bases.

…which of course led to the current uproar. This, in turn, led me to wonder…

So, who really cares?

Who, specifically, is so incensed over this? The answer was not difficult to discover. At the top of a rather short list is the American Family Association and its founder Rev. Donald Wildmon.

Wildmon. Sound familiar? He’s been brandishing the long arm of censorship since the 70’s when he took to task indecencies such as Three’s Company, Phil Donahue, and the heartwarming Tony Randall series “Love, Sidney.” (Love, Sidney!). The full list (1972-1992 from a report by Christopher M. Finan and Anne F. Castro) is worth checking out. It runs from the predictable: SNL, Soap, Dynasty, The Simpsons, The NewlyweFacts_of_life_girlsd Game (all that Whoopie!), to the head-scratching: Mr Belvedere, Alf, Doogie Houser, Johnnie Carson, The Wonder Years, Gimme A Break, Love Boat, Matlock, HIGHWAY TO HEAVEN?

Hell, I’m pressed to think of a show from the 70’s-80’s that didn’t make the list. What an evil, evil world.

Speaking of, a wikipedia article reveals Wildmon “has been accused of antisemitism for his views on the role of Jewish people in the media. In 2005 Wildmon threatened that if the Anti-Defamation League criticizes the religious right “we just won’t support Israel anymore.” He has also claimed that “Jews favor homosexual rights more than other Americans.” I’m guessing that’s supposed to be a negative.

AFA Press Release on the Current Good Fight Against Porn

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