June 26, 1997
CONTACT: Will Heyniger, Delisa Saunders (202) 467-4999
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
PFAW Leader Applauds Supreme Court Decision on CDA, Calls It "First Free Speech Ruling of the 21st Century"
People For the American Way President Carole Shields today applauded the Supreme Court for striking down the section of the Communications Decency Act that attempted to stifle free speech on the Internet.
"In effect, this is the first free speech ruling of the 21st century," Shields said. "In striking down the CDA, the Supreme Court stood up for a basic American value: free speech for every American. Sure, there are some things on the Internet I wouldn't want my grandchildren to see. But we believe the best solutions are those that allow individual families to control what children see. Technology that can help parents screen out inappropriate material improves every day, and we believe that kind of empowerment is the answer, not 'Big Brother'-type governmental control."
Congress last year passed, and President Clinton signed, the sweeping Telecommunications Deregulation Act that contained the Communications Decency Act. The CDA sought to ban "indecency" from the Internet, a broad prohibition that would have endangered Americans' access to topics such as art and literature.
In response to the unconstitutional legislation, People For the American Way helped organize the Citizens Internet Empowerment Coalition to help challenge the CDA. The Coalition was one of the parties before the Supreme Court, and PFAW Legal Director Elliot Mincberg helped draft the brief on the Coalition's behalf.
Mincberg called the Supreme Court ruling -- and the earlier court rulings that also struck down the CDA -- "an unequivocal affirmation of the First Amendment."
"The Founding Fathers could not have envisioned the Internet, but they were all too familiar with government censorship," Mincberg explained. "That is why they gave us the First Amendment. Today's ruling is a strong rebuttal against far-right, pro-censorship political groups such as the American Family Association and the Christian Coalition, which sought to exclude communications systems of the 21st century from the First Amendment freedoms we enjoy. We must now be on guard against attempts by these same far-right groups to circumvent the court's ruling in Congress."
People For the American Way is a 300,000-member organization dedicated to defending civil rights; promoting the democratic values of religious freedom and respect for diversity; and developing a culture of opportunity and tolerance for individual difference.