Does pornography fall under a constitution’s guarantee of freedom of speech?
Consider these thoughts from Professor Adam Carrington and discuss them with your teens. Carrington spoke on the issue at Love & Fidelity’s “Sexuality, Integrity, and the University” conference, specifically in relation to the freedom of speech clause of the First Amendment to the American constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech…”
The purpose of the First Amendment
The First Amendment assumes:
- a human nature, or essence. We are religious by nature (we worship, whether God, others, or self) and we are social (or political) by nature. We can reason to a conclusion, distinguish between right and wrong; we can speak and so develop community, the purpose of which is justice and the common good. This is what leads to true happiness.
- a human purpose: The goal of life is happiness.
The intention of the First Amendment was to build on our human nature and the purpose for which we live.
Pornography mocks the notion of free speech
Pornography doesn’t accord with the First Amendment; it mocks it. It is not in accord with our nature as human beings, nor with our purpose in life:
- It doesn’t point to God, but makes distorted gods out of ourselves.
- It subverts the social nature, and descends into the bestial. It denies the humanity and the dignity of the other. It makes something good (sex) into something evil. It is unjust; it treats human beings as objects. It is cowardly, afraid to enter into relationship. It is immoderate. it is imprudent, oblivious to the damage it causes to others and to oneself. It will not lead to happiness.
Freedom of speech
For the framers of the constitution, freedom was not the autonomy of the individual, freedom to do whatever we want to do. Freedom is to enable us to live in accordance with our nature and for the common good. This is what leads to happiness.
Current legal views
Pornography is wrong because it is prurient (“having or encouraging an excessive interest in sexual matters”) and because it does not fit with the norms of the average citizen regarding sexual activity . Pornography is patently wrong because it defiles the body and the soul; it preys on others and defiles the self.
What can be done?
Carrington believes that in order to deal with the deadly drug that is pornography we need to limit access, but we must also work to eliminate the demand. We must understand our human nature and our purpose as human beings — to worship and to pursue justice. We must persuade each other to resist.
Watch the video of Carrington’s talk with your teens. Ask them how porn is affecting them and their friends, what they can do about it, and what the Bible says about who we are and what our purpose is. They could begin with Genesis 1:26-27; Genesis 3:4-5; Mark 12:30-31; Micah 6:8.