I. Preface

Part: 
Four
Chapter: 
7

Our legal framework has developed in many respects into a system where citizens have delegated their right to redress certain harms to government officials. Government, in turn, is charged with the responsibility of providing appropriate remedies for its citizens, including the investigation and prosecution of individuals and corporations.

A preliminary analysis of governmental responsibilities is significant for several reasons. First, the Constitution of the United States and the Amendments thereto, delineated and apportion the powers delegated the federal, state, and local governments. Each of these levels of government have restrictions on the type of activity it can regulate as well as the manner of such regulation. Some activities can be regulated at all levels of government, while others are the sole responsibility of a single level.

Second, government has been created to act on behalf of and in the best interests of its citizens. The citizens, therefore, have every right to request and expect that the laws developed by the community (whether at the federal, state or local levels) will be enforced by it elected and appointed government officials.

Third, the law is not so simplistic that individual and collective rights are mutually exclusive. Often, there are competing rights. It is this competition which ultimately must be reconciled by both government and citizens alike.

While citizens should and must rely heavily on official government action to ensure that obscenity and pornography-related laws are enforced, there are also a number of alternative remedies available to them in their effort to control the proliferation of pornography in their community. The private actions initiated by groups or individuals are often as effective as a government-initiated action. For example, citizens can organize pickets and economic boycotts against producers, distributors and retailers of pornographic materials. They can also engage in letter writing campaigns and media events designed to inform the public about the impact of pornographic materials on the community.

A citizen's right to free speech is guaranteed under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.[1632] This right entitles individuals to organize and speak out even against those offensive materials that are not proscribed by law or cannot under the Constitution be regulated. While such action is permissible and often desirable, there are social if not legal risks of going too far in mandating social conformity in this area. To avoid these pitfalls, citizens are encouraged to be vigorous, well-informed, but responsible advocates and to exercise self-restraint so that in exercising their rights they do not prevent other citizens from exercising theirs.

Notes

  1. "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." U.S. Const. Amend. I.