New audio of statements by the prominent Iowa social-conservative group THE FAMiLY LEADER suggests the group believes essentially all pornography is illegal. Moreover, they are seeking commitments from presidential candidates to appoint an Attorney General who would prosecute almost all pornography found online or in stores.
This week, THE FAMiLY LEADER introduced a pledge intended to protect traditional marriage which quickly attracted the signatures of Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum. ThinkProgress, ABC, the Washington Post, the New York Daily News, Slate and many other outlets interpreted the broad language in the pledge as advocating a ban on pornography.
After this coverage of the pledge generated substantial controversy, THE FAMiLY LEADER’s head, Bob Vander Plaats, said the pledge, despite its expansive language, was only intended to cover “opposition to women being forced into pornography or prosititution.”
But that’s not, however, what he said at the press conference on Thursday when he unveiled the pledge.
Certainly the U.S. Supreme Court has delineated what is prosecutable and even with the Ashcroft Department of Justice, and certainly then more so with Holder Department of Justice we have not had illegal pornography prosecuted. So we expect the executive to appoint an Attorney General who will vigorously prosecute all illegal pornography.
You can listen to the audio, starting at 17:29, here. There are two main points: 1. We need to “vigorously prosecute all illegal pornography,” and 2. The scope of the prosecutions under Ashcroft were not aggressive or expansive enough.
This seems fairly reasonable, until one considers the approach to prosecuting pornography under Ashcroft. The Baltimore Sun detailed these efforts in an April 6, 2004 article entitled: “Administration wages war on pornography: For the first time in 10 years, the U.S. government is spending millions to file charges across the country.” From the intro:
Lam Nguyen’s job is to sit for hours in a chilly, quiet room devoid of any color but gray and look at pornography. This job, which Nguyen does earnestly from 9 to 5, surrounded by a half-dozen other “computer forensic specialists” like him, has become the focal point of the Justice Department’s operation to rid the world of porn.
In this field office in Washington, 32 prosecutors, investigators and a handful of FBI agents are spending millions of dollars to bring anti-obscenity cases to courthouses across the country for the first time in 10 years. Nothing is off limits, they warn, even soft-core cable programs…or the adult movies widely offered in guestrooms of major hotel chains.
The Justice Department hired Bruce Taylor to take the lead in developing and prosecuting many of the cases:
The Justice Department recently hired Bruce Taylor, who was instrumental in a handful of convictions obtained over the past year and unsuccessfully represented the state in a 1981 case, Larry Flynt vs. Ohio…
“Just about everything on the Internet and almost everything in the video stores and everything in the adult bookstores is still prosecutable illegal obscenity,” [Taylor] said.
“…Once it becomes obvious that this really is a federal felony instead of just a form of entertainment or investment, then legitimate companies, to stay legitimate, are going to have to distance themselves from it.”
THE FAMiLY LEADER believes that this interpretation of obscenity law — which deems essentially all pornography found online or in adult book and video stores illegal — is insufficiently expansive and aggressive. Vander Plaats also emphasizes that every instance of obscenity under their interpretation needs to be vigorously prosecuted. According to Vander Plaats those who sign the pledge, like Michele Bachmann, agree to appoint an Attorney General who will make sure these prosecutions happen.