First Amendment protections were upheld in the case of Reno v. American Civil Liberties Union, 521 U.S. 844 (1997) (Reno, 1997). The Communications Decency Act of 1996 was found to violate the First Amendment’s protection of freedom of speech. In appealing the CDA, appellees were hoping that the court would determine that the CDA violated both First and Fifth Amendment rights. While the court agreed that the CDA violated First Amendment rights, they did not rule on the issue of Fifth Amendment rights violations. Both constitutional and criminal issues were being addressed in this appeal.
Constitutional Provisions at Issue
The Constitutional issue that was addressed was whether the CDA violated the First Amendment’s protection of free speech (Reno, 1997). The court found that the CDA did infringe upon the freedom of speech protection afforded in the First Amendment. The CDA was an effort to restrict inappropriate material from reaching children ...view middle of the document...
There was no leeway for art or content with educational value.
Criminal Statutes at Issue
“The CDA's provisions criminalized legitimate protected speech (including sexually explicit indecent speech) as well as unprotected obscene speech, and thus were overinclusive” (Reno, pg 1, 1997). Indecent sexually explicit speech is protected as it can have redeeming qualities. Sexually explicit language could be used during an online sex education class for high school aged children. The language within the CDA would make such a class a criminal offense. The purpose of the CDA was to limit obscene material from coming in contact with children, but the language was not specific enough to allow for practical and legitimate online use.
Status of Criminal Prosecution for Internet Transmission of Pornography
Criminal prosecution for the transmission of pornography over the internet warrants that a criminal statue must be broken. For example, the possession or distribution of child pornography is a criminal offense and can be prosecuted as such. Posting content that may be considered inappropriate is not a criminal offense and cannot be prosecuted as such. For example, a website offering content on prison rape would not be a criminal offense. Even if many people find the content offensive, it still serves a purpose that could be considered to have educational value.
Christian World View Application
Ephesians 5:4-14 (New International Version) is one example of Christians being warned to stay away from obscene material. Most Christians would not argue that the Bible demands that Christians remain pure at heart, but even among Christians, there would be disagreement about what is or is not obscene. Even the Bible has passages depicting incest and rape that some would consider obscene. The core issue of the appeal of the CDA was not whether obscene material should be kept away from children, but in whether the CDA’s approach to doing so was constitutional. In the end, the way in which the CDA tried to impose those values infringed upon the value of free speech and so was rejected.
Reno v. American Civil Liberties Union, 521 U.S. 844 (1997). Retrieved from http://cybergate.belhaven.edu/course/view.php?id=17287.