12.4c Obscene materials
Constitutional protection is not given to obscene
publications. However, great difficulty has been experienced by
the Supreme Court in determining what is obscene. After the case
of Roth versus United States in 1957, three essential constitutional
criteria had to be present for judging material as obscene. Firstly,
by applying contemporary community standards (that is, the
opinion of the society at large), the average person would consider
the dominant theme of the materials to be appealing to a prurient
interest in sex. Secondly, the material was an affront to contemporary
standards, thus making it patently offensive. Thirdly, there was
no redeeming social value in the materials.
Under the variable obscenity doctrine, so long as materials were discreetly promoted, government would stay their hands against all except so-called hard-core pornography, as far as adults were concerned. However, the Supreme Court approved regulations prohibiting the knowing sale to minors of "girly magazines" that would not be regarded as obscene, if sold to adults.
Federal statutes exclude from the mail "every obscene, lewd, lascivious or filthy book…or other publication of an indecent character," while state statutes that make it a crime to publish obscene matter, are common.
12.1 Perspective on Civil Liberties
12.2 The First Amendment:Freedom of Religion
The First Amendment:Freedom of Speech
12.4 The First Amendment:Freedom of Press
The Rights of Defendants