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Away From Home

Friday, September 09, 2005

Kansas judge throws out obscenity case

Looks like the Lion's Den stays:

A Kansas judge has dismissed 10 misdemeanor obscenity counts against a Dickinson County adult bookstore, saying the state obscenity law is unconstitutional.

The charges were filed in April after a 29-count indictment against the Lion’s Den was thrown out on a technicality. Earlier this week, Senior Judge Robert Innes said the obscenity law was flawed.

He noted that the state Supreme Court ruled in 1990 that state law forbids the Legislature from declaring a device obscene solely on the basis that it relates to human sexuality.

The law was later changed to address the court’s ruling, but Innes said language remained in the law that allowed the 1990 case to be overturned.

Innes’ decision is the latest in a two-year battle over what is deemed to be obscene in Dickinson County.

The Lion’s Den opened in September 2003 in a former Stuckey’s restaurant along Interstate 70 outside Abilene and sparked a protest by residents who formed the group Citizens for Strengthening Community Virtues.

That group has since launched similar protests and battles in other Kansas communities to enforce state obscenity laws and to have counties define obscenity for themselves.

Phillip Cosby, an Abilene resident who organized the protest two years ago, said Thursday that several other communities are organizing to fight what they view as obscenity.

“To say this one county judge dealt a fatal blow is quite an exaggeration,” Cosby said. “We’ve been discouraged before. We can’t give up. … I’ve learned patience and persistence.”

Freedom of speech, while not absolute, is fundamental to our society. While obscene materials do not enjoy First Amendment protection, the sheer importance of having free speech mandates that the scope of "obscenity" must be small. And it certainly cannot be dictated by a mere subset of society. Obscene materials are shocking to almost every person in society. Not a majority, not a supermajority (2/3). I literally mean almost everyone, as in 95% or more. Child porn is obscene. Adult porn is not.

Don't like it? Put up signs. Don't go inside. Hoist a giant billboard proclaiming God's condemnation of pornography (which actually exists next to the Lion's Den). There are any number of things you can do to show your disapproval of the store's wares.

But you can't make it leave, any more than it can make you leave. Besides, when it comes right down to it, such loud, vigorous protests only amount to free publicity.


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