Does the Law Already Ban Porn?

Robert George’s Letter to William Barr


John Stonestreet

Shane Morris

Back in December, conservative voices on Twitter had a heated debate over whether or not the government should get involved in the fight against pornography—particularly because of how it impacts our kids.

Writers like Catholic Matt Walsh at the Daily Wire made the case that porn is no longer an issue of private morality, if it ever was. Today, porn is a public health crisis. Mountains of evidence reveal not only its addictive power but also its devastating consequences for women and children. Walsh argued that free market solutions have been exhausted, and so banning pornography and prosecuting those who distribute it is the only way to contain this scourge on our families and our society. Others argued for at least increased governmental regulation.

Some libertarians pushed back, insisting that although porn is harmful, the government should not regulate what consenting adults look at on their computers or phones. As one commentator memorably put it, “Social conservatives need to realize that we can handle pornography…without turning America into a Christian version of Saudi Arabia.”

Really, how’s handling it going so far? As much as that comment makes me want to scream, at least a long overdue debate is happening. So, let’s have it.

First, the idea that the government addressing something so dangerous to the public, especially to children, is somehow akin to theocratic tyranny is, to put it mildly, ridiculous. Even us limited government folks think government has a role to protect citizens. This clearly falls into that category.

Second, the idea that pornography falls under free speech protections is also ridiculous. It’s a stretch to consider the selling of digital flesh as a political or artistic endeavor worthy of protection, but the dissemination of the depraved abuse of real live human beings, which is what so much porn is today? No way.

Third, bondage to pornography isn’t an expression of freedom, especially when victims are children. Porn is predatory. Because it is unregulated, it assaults citizens not looking for it. Even worse, kids are being targeted at shockingly early ages. Studies say the average age of first exposure is eleven. For many, it’s as young as five.

That’s why I was so grateful to learn of a letter by Princeton University’s Robert George, considered to be one of America’s foremost conservative intellectuals, to U.S. Attorney General William Barr, pleading with him to take action against Internet pornography.

Dr. George was a close friend to Chuck Colson and the recipient of the 2015 William Wilberforce Award. In his letter to Barr, excerpted at the Daily Wire, George points out that laws already on the books forbid the distribution of “obscenity,” especially to minors.

If there’s any question whether or not modern-day porn counts as “obscenity,” let’s just say that the days of “Playboy” magazines at gas stations are long gone. George unflinchingly describes the dark, depraved world of increasingly brutal, abusive, and twisted content, bluntly concluding: “A 13-year-old with a smartphone now has unlimited access to his own personal theatre of sexual horrors.”

Because so-called “adult” entertainment targets those who aren’t adults, Dr. George believes existing laws can at least curb this madness. Still, as he described in an interview with me that you can hear on a recent BreakPoint podcast episode, it’s only a start. Much more is required.

In the letter, Dr. George asked Attorney General Barr to clarify what types of pornography fall under the legal definition of “obscenity,” and what his Department of Justice is doing to prosecute violators.

Thankfully, this request is not likely to fall on deaf ears, as it probably would have under previous administrations. Attorney General Barr is a devout Catholic and an outspoken critic of the secular view of freedom. In fact, in a tremendous speech on religious liberty at Notre Dame Law School, Barr condemned the “unbridled pursuit of personal appetites at the expense of the common good.”

I’m eager to hear Barr’s response. If any U.S. Attorney General in my lifetime thus far is likely to do something about the porn epidemic, it’s him. And if anyone is likely to get a reply to a request, it’s Dr. George.

In our interview on the BreakPoint Podcast, Dr. Robert George passionately describes why he wrote the letter to the Attorney General, the possibility of existing laws curbing this epidemic, and how you can stand with him in fighting an evil that enslaves millions and actively preys on children.


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Professor George to Atty Gen Barr: Time to Fight Porn

John Stonestreet | BreakPoint Podcast | January 27, 2020

William Barr and His Detractors

John Stonestreet | BreakPoint Podcast | October 19, 2019

EXCLUSIVE: Iconic Conservative Leader Requests AG Barr Address Pornography Epidemic

Josh Hammer | The Daily Wire | January 13, 2020

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