U.S. Halting of Braille Playboy Ruled Violation of Constitution

Associated Press

The Librarian of Congress violated the Constitution when he refused to offer Playboy in Braille, a federal judge ruled Thursday.

U.S. District Judge Thomas F. Hogan held that Daniel J. Boorstin ran afoul of the First Amendment because his decision to withhold the sexually oriented men’s magazine in Braille form was “. . . viewpoint oriented.”

Hogan announced the oral decision from the bench. He said he will issue a written opinion later.


The judge said that Boorstin overruled his staff’s recommendations to make the magazine available and that the librarian said “he was doing so because he understood the sense of Congress was to eliminate Playboy, and he viewed that as a type of censorship.”

“Despite his own views he felt that was wrong, he still went ahead with what he thought the sense of Congress was,” Hogan said.

”. . . I think that is a back-door approach to a formalistic game that congressmen were playing to eliminate Playboy, and (Boorstin) went along with it, and I do not fault Dr. Boorstin personally.”

Last year, Boorstin dropped Playboy from the list of 36 magazines that are produced and distributed in Braille for handicapped readers after Congress, on a vote of 216 to 193, cut $103,000 from the library’s annual $1.3-million budget--the exact amount it costs to produce 1,000 12-month subscriptions to Playboy.

The magazine had been published in Braille since 1970. None of the other 35 magazines printed in Braille was dropped.

The Braille edition of Playboy contains no centerfolds of scantily clad women, photographs, cartoons, captions or advertisements. It features primarily the magazine’s literary content and special written features.


Although Playboy was not mentioned in the congressional budget-cutting amendment, Rep. Chalmers P. Wylie, an Ohio Republican who sponsored it, complained in the floor debate of “talk about wanton idleness, of wanton and illicit sex and so forth” in Playboy articles.

The American Council of the Blind, the Blinded Veterans Assn., the American Library Assn., blind readers of Braille magazines and Playboy Enterprises Inc., along with 41 House members who opposed the Wylie amendment, sued to have Playboy restored to the list of magazines published in Braille.