Meese Names Panel to Study Pornography

Associated Press

Atty. Gen. Edwin Meese III today named 11 people to a commission to study the effects of pornography and recommend appropriate measures to control its production and distribution.

A spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union said the “censorship train has just left the station” and objected to the law enforcement backgrounds of three of the 11 panelists.

The panel will be chaired by Henry Hudson, attorney for Arlington County, Va., a Washington suburb. Hudson met with President Reagan in 1983 and urged him to launch a new “clean up America” campaign against pornography.


“Re-examination of the issue of pornography is long overdue,” Meese told a news conference at the Justice Department. “Its impact upon society was last assessed fully 15 years ago. Since then, the content of pornography has radically changed, with more and more emphasis upon extreme violence.

Available at Home

“Moreover, no longer must one go out of the way to find pornographic materials. With the advent of cable television and video recorders, pornography now is available at home to almost anyone--regardless of age--at the mere touch of a button or at the mere dialing of a telephone.”

Meese said most of these changes had occurred since a presidential commission concluded in 1970 that pornography, as Meese put it, “was not much of a problem.” The 1970 panel said it found no convincing evidence that pornography led to anti-social behavior and said no new laws were needed to restrict it.

It said the material was sensitive primarily because people had difficulty dealing with sexual questions.

May Urge Legislation

Meese, however, said his commission may well recommend legislation to restrict production and distribution of pornography, new law enforcement techniques or even guidelines on how to conduct pornography investigations without infringing upon First Amendment rights to free speech.

But Barry Lynn of the ACLU said, “Although he pays lip service to the First Amendment, I’m not convinced the attorney general takes these free expression rights seriously.”

Lynn noted that three of the 11 members have some background with state or federal law enforcement agencies, which he called “disproportionate.” He added that there appeared to be no one from “the creative community or the civil liberties area.”

“I’m afraid there is a train marked ‘censorship’ which has just left the station,” Lynn said.