The WP reports: The Supreme Court today upheld Congress's most recent attempt to prosecute those who would promote child pornography, ruling that the law did not violate free speech guarantees.
The court voted 7 to 2 that the law criminalizing "pandering" of real or purported child pornography over the Internet or through the mail met constitutional standards. The majority dismissed arguments Justice Antonin Scalia called "fanciful hypotheticals" that the law might make documentarians, movie reviewers and even unsuspecting grandparents subject to its pandering standards.
"Child pornography harms and debases the most defenseless of our citizens," Scalia wrote for the majority, adding that federal and state authorities have been frustrated to find it "proliferating through the new medium of the Internet."
The American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression and other groups had asked the court to overturn the law, saying it would restrict protected speech and allow prosecution of individuals even if actual child pornography did not exist.
Justice John Paul Stevens, who filed a concurring opinion, said he was convinced that material with "serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value" would still be protected. That is because of the law's requirement that the "defendant actually believed, or intended to induce another to believe, that the material in question depicted real children" involved in sexual conduct.
Justice David H. Souter dissented, and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg joined him.
"Perhaps I am wrong, but without some demonstration that juries have been rendering exploitation of children unpunishable, there is no excuse for cutting back on the First Amendment and no alternative to finding overbreadth in this act," Souter wrote.