LOCKING UP PERVERTS
Sometimes you can't believe that we live in the same country with some perverts—but the headlines scream at you: "Hustler Magazine Chief Gets Prison Term." The article goes on to say, "Larry Flynt was found guilty of pandering obscenity and engaging in organized crime and immediately was sentenced to 7 to 25 years in prison and fined $11,000. The charge of engaging in organized crime stemmed from distribution of Hustler, alleged to be obscene and therefore illegal, in Hamilton County, Ohio. An Ohio law that took effect in January 1974 defines organized crime as a syndicate formed to commit a crime. A syndicate is defined as any group of five or more persons who collaborate to commit an offense for profit.
"A request by Flynt's attorney that sentence be suspended pending appeal was denied and the 34-year old publisher of the sex-oriented magazine was handcuffed immediately and taken to jail."
"Before being sentenced, Flynt told Judge William J. Morrissey that Hustler had just passed Reader's Digest to become the nation's 10th best-selling magazine. He said 3 million copies of the magazine are sold each month and estimated monthly readership at 15 million." The perverts in this case are the honorable members of the Ohio Legislature and the County Prosecutors in Cincinnati who believe that such a law should be enforced.
The Newsletter on Intellectual Freedom, published by the American Library Association Intellectual Freedom Committee, 50 East Huron Street, Chicago, IL 60611, $6.00/yr. is one of the best sources of information on this front. Last November this newsletter reported the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, which includes Ohio, that school board officials could not ban Joseph Heller's novel Catch-22 or Kurt Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle. The fact that Larry Flynt's case will be appealed to this court makes it all the more outrageous that he is sitting in jail today.
The Newsletter on Intellectual Freedom is published bimonthly and is the size of a full magazine, filled with interesting news and notes. The issue cited above, for example, reports:
Freedom Expression Church Raided. In a move against what the Boston police called 'one of the most unusual devices to show X-rated films,' the city's vice squad closed the Freedom Expression Church, arrested two employees, and seized a print of Deep Throat.
'The newly chartered nonprofit organization opened in July in a room formerly occupied by a restaurant lounge. Its pastor, the Rev. Shirley Bourgeois, said the church of 200 members included in its mission the serving of free beer and the screening of Deep Throat. Reported in Variety, August 4."
This should be an interesting test of the freedom of religion under the First Amendment. Clearly only certain sects of Christians care about issues such as the splitbeaver centerfolds of Hustler or the whorehouse scenes of Catch-22. If the Freedom Expression Church wants to explore the goodness of such alternatives as Deep Throat will the courts protect them? On an issue such as this, the future of libertarianism may rest.
We have been told, although we don't know how to track it down, that a Judge in Arizona a few months ago dismissed a murder charge against a teenage hoodlum who had beaten a homosexual to death—on the grounds that gays don't deserve any better. While most states are repealing laws against homosexuality, the debate in the Arizona legislature is how to stiffen the punishments. This is what they do in Communist China and Cuba. We might have expected something different from such an anti-Communist bastion as the home state of Barry Goldwater—but maybe there is not so much difference between Communists and conservatives after all.
GOVERNMENT SPYING FOR FUN AND PROFIT
Did the CIA open your mail? If you would like to know, write to the FOIA Coordinator, C.I.A., Washington, DC 20505. If you were one of the tens of thousands of persons whose mail was copied, you just might get monetary damages under the Federal Tort Claims Act, which permits suits against the United States government—as opposed to its officers and agents who might harm you individually. The American Civil Liberties Union has filed seven lawsuits in various jurisdictions as a class action. If the class action is denied, the ACLU is attempting to locate the specific persons who may have been spied upon so that they can file as large a lawsuit as possible.
All libertarians who may be interested in this lawsuit should write to the CIA and demand "under the authority of the Freedom of Information Act" whether their mail has been opened. If it has, the CIA will not only say so, but will even send you copies of your letters. You can then submit a claim for damages to the CIA. Write to the CIA first, and if you are one of the lucky enemies of the United States, you should write to the Legal Department, ACLU, 22 East 40th Street, New York, NY 10016. They will send you a small packet of materials and forms which will explain the steps the ACLU will take on your behalf after your claim is rejected—as they all have been so far.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Frontlines".