*Note - Morgan Bennett is a co-author.
The U. S. Supreme Court decision on broadcast indecency in FCC v. Fox Television, Inc. , (June 21, 2012) (“Fox II”), has reignited an important debate: whether TV networks have a right to distribute indecent material into our homes without our consent. The U. S. Congress prohibited such activity and the high Court upheld that prohibition decades ago. To obtain their licenses to broadcast, networks pledge to act in the “public interest,” but for years, they have abandoned that pledge to promote their own morbid interest in indecency.
After Fox, the Federal Communications Commission is free to enforce federal indecency law for broadcast TV (the law does not apply to cable TV). However, many voices have been raised against enforcement. The voice of Jacob Sullum, senior editor at Reason Magazine, seems typical of those in opposition. In a post-Fox article on Reason.com entitled, “A Mythical Right to Decency,” Sullum claims that the FCC cannot respond to the 1.5 million existing complaints to the FCC from offended Americans without being “farcical” and violating the First Amendment. He deems enforcement of federal laws a “censorious enterprise” full of “intellectual and constitutional bankruptcy.” But Sullum’s hysterical response has always been clearly disaffirmed both by Congress and the Supreme Court. There are logical and responsible reasons for this.
Even a modest survey of the Founding Fathers’ understanding of liberty reveals that liberty simply does not, and cannot, exist without moral restraint. George Washington knew this truth: “Religion and morality are the essential pillars of civil society.” As did John Adams, who explained, “[W]e have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion . . . Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” Finally, Benjamin Rush best summarizes this essential truth: “Without virtue there can be no liberty.”
Thus, the real “intellectual and constitutional bankruptcy” lies in the now prevalent “anything-goes” mentality of post-sexual revolution liberals. They hope to open wide the gates of indecency without realizing that those very gates are trapdoors below their feet. However, those who are really on the side of liberty will inevitably take the side of morality.