the degradation of women as part of their rhetoric. In an op-ed piece in the August 22, 1986, Houston Post, Robison wrote: Feminists and others celebrate the nude body and mutually consensual relations between adults. That is the main differing point between the National Organization for Women and the religious right. We also promote sex education and control of our own bodies . . . we do not consider depictions of loving relations between two willing partners, regardless of sexual preference or marital status, pornographic. Most feminists agree that for a depiction to be classified as pornographic there must be some element of violence, implied violence, degradation or dehumanization linked with the sexually explicit material. According to Wendy Stock, obscenity laws are based on the assumption that “sex itself is dirty.” The Supreme Court has ruled that obscenity must arouse “prurient interest,” which Stock said is defined by male ideals of sexuality. The “community standards” the Supreme Court allowed for in 1973 are also defined by men, Stock said. She pointed out that the context of an image may make it pornographic according to a feminist view it may degrade or humilitate women but a court might not find it ‘obscene’ if it is not sexually explicit. The feminists abhorrence of malecentered obscenity laws make a feminist response to the findings of the Meese Commission on pornography somewhat ambivalent. The commission did conclude that most pornography is potentially harmful and can lead to violence, a view many feminists have been advocating. Suddenly that position has been given the stamp of approval by the Justice Department. While the conclusions may coincide with feminist views, the means to achieving the elimination of pornography certainly differ. The commission urges strict enforcement of existing obscenity laws, which most feminists feel are based on sexist assumptions. And increased enforcement of obscenity laws may not be in the best interests of women, resulting in a ban on what feminists consider to be positive images of sexuality. Especially dangerous is the risk that health and birth control infor mation might become a casualty. Gara LaMarche, executive director of the Texas Civil Liberties Union, said that feminists should be careful of any association with conservative groups which appear to share common ground with them. “If we have a pornography ordinance passed in Texas, it won’t be because feminists supported it; it’ll be because the fundamentalists found it a convenient vehicle for their goals,” he said. “And once such a law is passed, who’s going to be pushing for the enforcement of such a law? The fundamentalists. They’d want to use it to limit access to information on reproduction. won’t be able to control the use of it.” For the present, Texas NOW has taken a tentative stand on pornography. The lack of consensus on the issue, evident at the convention, suggests that the organization may well spend a great deal more energy debating the issue. And some of that energy will have been diverted from taking on such’ crucial issues as child support, pay equity, reproductive rights, and sexual assault. Austin THE MOMENT President Reagan nominated William Rehnquist to be chief justice of the United States, the issue of government-sponsored school prayer moved from our national back steps to the parlor. What chance did I have to shoo it back outside? In his 24-page dissent last year in the Alabama moment-ofsilence/school-prayer decision, Wallace v. Jaffree, Justice Rehnquist boldly swept aside Thomas Jefferson’s “wall of separation between church and state,” calling it “a metaphor based on bad history, a metaphor which has proved useless as a guide to judging. It should be frankly and explicitly abandoned.” had sifted through all the historical data. But I wanted to take a closer look. Robert Heard is a lawyer and author of five books, including Miracle of the Killer Bees: 12 Senators Who Changed Texas Politics. Justice Rehnquist obviously intended this dissent to serve as his benchmark on issues involving the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious freedom. Indeed, less than a month later, he cited it in a one-paragraph dissent in a New York City case where an appeals court struck down the use of public school teachers to provide remedial instruction in religious schools. With his promotion and with one more Reagan appointee, he can make the Alabama dissent the intellectual bedrock for fresh entanglement of church and state. Never mind that Jefferson said, in 1816, some men look at constitutions with sanctimonious reverence and deem them too sacred to be touched, ascribing to their authors a wisdom more than human. He said new discoveries and progress of the human mind require change in constitutions to keep pace with the times. Mr. Rehnquist wants a jurisprudence of original intent, using history, as someone recently said, the way drunkards do lampposts more for support than illumination. Atty. Gen. Edwin Meese, who also enshrines original intent, inflamed the public debate over the majority decision in Jaffree by saying the Founding Fathers would have found it “bizarre.” The Founders sought neutrality between sects, Mr. Rehnquist and Mr. Meese say, not between “religion and irreligion” \(a phrase Justice Rehnquist Religious fundamentalists embrace this view, and their pied pipers reach millions with this message through cable -television. “This thing about separation of church and state,” said Dallas’ W.A. Criswell, “is the figment of some infidel’s imagination.” Pat Robertson said, “The Constitution of the United States is a marvelous document for selfgovernment by Christian people. But the minute you turn the document into the hands of non-Christian people and atheist people, they can use it to destroy the very foundation of our society.” Jimmy Swaggart said, “I’m concerned that the U.S. Supreme Court is an institution damned by God.” Jerry Falwell prophesied; ” . . one day, Jesus is going to come and strike down all the Supreme Court rulings in one fell swoop.” As I began to look into this constitutional question, I worried about proving original intent. Aware that many of the Founders were deists, I doubted I could find evidence contradicting Mr. Rehn Rehnquist and the Right Not To Believe By Robert Heard THE TEXAS OBSERVER 23
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