Why Online Pornography is Being Blocked in the UK—and Why It Should Be in the U.S. Too

The Story: Most households in the UK will have pornography blocked by their internet provider unless they choose to receive it, the prime minister has announced.

The Background: According to the BBC, Prime Minister Cameron warned in a speech that access to online pornography is “corroding childhood.” The new measures will apply to both existing and new customers. Cameron also called for some “horrific” internet search terms to be “blacklisted,” meaning they would automatically bring up no results on websites such as Google or Bing.

He told the BBC he expected a “row” with service providers who, he said in his speech, were “not doing enough to take responsibility” despite having a “moral duty” to do so. He warned he could have to “force action” by changing the law and that, if there were “technical obstacles,” firms should use their “greatest brains” to overcome them.

Why It Matters: Imagine that as part of their mail delivery service, the USPS delivered to your mailbox an unlimited supply of free drugs, ranging from oxycodone to heroin. You could take the drugs out or leave them untouched, but they would always be there for you or any other member of your family. While you can’t opt out of the service, people who don’t want access to the drugs could attach a lock that prevents them and their family from picking up the narcotics when they collect their electric bill and postcards. But the postal service would always ensure that, without the postal customer taking preventive measures, the drugs were always ready and waiting for them.

Now imagine that a politician proposes a change to the law. Rather than automatically being delivered to their mailbox, people who wanted the drugs would simply need to tell the post office that they want to opt in to the service. Most citizens would not only consider this a reasonable proposal, but would wonder what sort of degenerate society allowed the current drugs-delivered-to-every-home system in the first place. You would find relatively few Americans—and few American Christians—who would oppose such a regulation.

Indeed, such a regulation already exists in America to prevent unsolicited pornography from being put into your mailbox. Title 18, Sec. 1461 of the U.S. Code currently prohibits the mailing of “every obscene, lewd, lascivious, indecent, filthy or vile” material. So why would so many Americans—and many American Christians—oppose a similar regulation that prevented Internet service providers from being required to add “family-friendly filters” to restrict obscene material?

American Christians on both the left and the right are frequently criticized for allowing their political beliefs to be shaped more by the culture than by the Word of God. Too often such complaints are overstated since the principle underlying their political position can be rooted, however obliquely, in Scripture. But the support for unlimited access to pornography, distributed freely in every home with an Internet connection, is not a cause that any Christian should tolerate, much less support.

Complaints that we must not favor any type of censorship are also both inadequate and ahistorical. The founding fathers—the men who actually wrote the First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech—would have considered it the height of idiocy to think they ever intended the Constitution to protect pornography. But even if unrestricted access to smut was a government-given right, it would be trumped by the moral duty of every decent human being to protect the innocence of children.

Christians in America often look on with pity and disdain at the secularizing influences that are destroying the cultural legacy of the United Kingdom. But this news should cause us to check our pride and sense of moral superiority. Even in a nation growing increasingly hostile to religion and Christian virtue, they have the moral sense to support commonsensical regulations against obscenity. Why then can’t we in the United States do the same?

  • Ross

    While I completely agree with the conclusion of your argument (blocking porn), I don’t think your argument using the drug/mail analogy is good. Porn is not illegal the way the drugs you mentioned are, nor do they have the same immediate and drastic effects, both physically on an individual nor economically as a society.

    While I am completely against porn, I just felt compelled to voice my concern because I can imagine a non-Christian dispelling the conclusion because of the argument.

    • Joe Carter

      ***Porn is not illegal the way the drugs you mentioned are***

      It’s only partially true that porn is not illegal in the same ways that drugs are. The Supreme Court ruled in the Miller v. California (1973) that material could be determined to be obscene (and thus illegal) if “the average person, applying contemporary community standards” would find that the work appeals to the prurient interest. The truth is that most Internet porn could be considered illegal — but the government does not have the will to prosecute such cases.

      ***nor do they have the same immediate and drastic effects, both physically on an individual nor economically as a society.***

      On this point I have to completely disagree. I think the detrimental effect of pornography will soon trump — if it has not done so already — problems caused by drugs. The effects are usually indirect which makes the difficult to measure. But the broken homes, broken lives, and damaged children are very real, very serious problem in America (you probably agree with that, of course). Drugs are only a bigger problem because they’ve been widely available for far longer than Internet pornography.

      • tim jones

        also, pornography changes the brain in the same exact way that drugs do. the effects on one’s neural pathways and neural chemistry is the same. see here: http://www.salvomag.com/new/articles/salvo13/13hilton.php, and here: http://pornharmsresearch.com/, and here: http://www.catholicworldreport.com/Item/605/a_poison_in_the_home.aspx#.UfKDV8p7bvg.

        i suggest looking into, “The Social Costs of Pornography,” (available on kindle). it is a mostly secular study into pornography’s devastating effects on individuals, families and communities. the days of just assuming that porn use is a generally “victimless” activity are quickly coming to an end. the church should be THE FIRST PLACE this problem is addressed. There will be no revival unless and until the church faces the devastation that pornography is lavishing within it’s own walls, just like it is out in “the world.”

        • http://www.christianvagabond.com Christian Vagabond

          The problem is that the argument proposes a false equivalency between all forms of addiction. Porn addiction is heroin addiction is alcohol addiction is caffeine addiction because they all contain the same biochemical reactions. Any reasonable person would factor in the nature and severity of addiction, hence heroin is illegal because the addictive properties are powerful and are likely to cause consequences beyond the addiction itself like criminal behavior, health complications, and violence.

          Porn and caffeine addiction, on the other hand, are much rarer consequences and the consequences are milder. Addiction to porn surely creates serious problems, but by definition a porn addict is off the street and likely isn’t bothering anyone. Also, there are potentially beneficial elements of porn (like married couples who use it to rekindle their romance.) There’s no doubt that the church should take a stand on porn, but your average non-church-going citizen isn’t obligated to live by your church’s stance.

          • tim jones

            your point regarding “false equivalency” is itself, false. indeed, you re-iterate the point that they all contain the same biochemical reactions, a point that in itself equates them all together. “Any reasonable person would factor in the nature and severity of the addiction,” you state. Here you are partaking in a very subjective view. For what is, “any reasonable person..?” And who is to qualify what is “severe..?”

            While something such as heroin use certainly attaches itself generally to a lot of stereotypical criminal behavior (think pushers, thieves, assorted other criminals), pornography addiction is no less of an “addiction” due to its (apparent) lack of attachment to similar crimes (although there is more and more indication of a strong correlation between pornography use and human/sex trafficking and prostitution). My experience – along with that of tens of thousands of other men and women – is that the nature of pornography and one’s addiction to it, creates problems for the “user” that are in some senses, a hundred times more intractable than that of other addictions because it is so tightly bound to phenomenon of shame. Think about it: examples of media and literary romanticization of alcoholism and drug addiction abound, yet please point out to me the corresponding instances where pornography USE is romanticized. Drug use and alcoholism is in a sense, socially acceptable when compared to porn consumption.
            Because of this innate way porn use and addiction is “buried” within a person’s life and psyche, “fixing” the problem becomes very difficult and it is often left to fester and grow, eventually effecting the individuals most intimate relationships, their career, the way they perceive women, the way they actually process reality, and, ultimately, their relationship to their Creator. This is not to even mention the various health and safety problems and the way in which this cheapening of human sexuality tends to lead one toward more and more aberrant and socially destructive behavior. In short, the “stealth” nature of porn addiction helps make it one of the most corrosive and de-forming problems a person can face.
            Lastly, you state that the consequences of porn addiction are milder, and I would disagree. You further state that the user is by definition, “off the street.” I would argue that this is the very factor making him more of a “danger” to himself, his family and community. (Obviously, I haven’t even touched on the “marital aid” argument, but ask yourself, how does God look upon the intimacy-killing instrument of porn in a marriage? Intimacy is not just sex, and sex alone is not true intimacy.)

            • http://www.christianvagabond.com Christian Vagabond

              If you’re going to rely on the idea that addictions can be regarded as biochemically equivalent, then you have to do the same with sexual arousal. The biochemical processes that cause arousal in a loving relationship with a spouse are the same as those that occur with a prostitute or a porn video. Hopefully this helps you see that relying on a biochemical argument can lead to morally absurd conclusions.

              As for porn and sex trafficking, use common sense. If a person is seeking a prostitute or sex slave, they are actively engaged in a (reprehensible) sexual activity with another person. Porn addiction creates the opposite problem: a lack of interest in real-life sexual experiences. That’s why porn is so destructive: the imaginary becomes more interesting to the viewer than their real-life spouse.

              i’m not dismissing the struggle of porn addicts, but it pales in comparison to drug addiction, and I think it’s offensive to even attempt to equivocate them. No one ever died because they were addicted to porn. Try talking to alcoholics or recovering coke addicts. Those aren’t just mental addictions, they’re also physical addictions.

            • Brian

              Also, porn is one of the only drugs (if not the only drug) that is active in nature, in that drugs like alcohol, heroin, etc. are simply consumed, and then the person can sit back and let the drugs take effect automatically. With porn, the user is actively looking, taking it in, assessing, etc. not only causing biochemical changes in the brain, but actively altering the person’s thought process in a very conscious manner.

            • http://www.christianvagabond.com Christian Vagabond

              Brian, lat week my neighbor dug some porn out of his tomato garden, washed it off, and uploaded it onto his computer.

              Seriously though, I’m not sure what you’re trying to say. There’s a reason why drug users call it “getting high”: drugs alter their minds in a very conscious manner.

          • Clark

            Two words for you: Ted Bundy.

          • http://galileanbreakdown.wordpress.com/ tim jones

            just go to the links (even including one that supposedly supports your stance). in the end, there are substance addictions and process addictions, but research shows that all of them operate using the same brain chemistry and processes. just go to the links.





            (gotta’ read all the way thru on next one)”

      • Ross


        Just wanted to follow up on your helpful reply. I went and did some reading on Miller v. California as I didn’t know about it (thanks for sharing). On one hand, it is good that “a community” can mark content obscene. However, this is personally of very little comfort to me, given what seems to be a moral decline in the US. I would also be interested to see how the typical non-Christian views pornography. While they may not want it delivered to them, I’m not quite sure many would define it as “obscene.”

        As far as the mail analogy, there is also a difference in active versus passive delivery. Mail is activity delivered while pornography is not. If it were the case where everyone’s homepage were set to a pornographic site unless they opted out, I would agree more with the analogy. As it stands, pornography already can be considered an opt-in program.

        Good thoughts all around, and a good reminder that heart change is above all the most important. It might be unfair of me to expect a “community” to generally make Christian decisions (as most are statistically unbelievers) but I can be praying that God would use the moral sense he’s given all to remove this form of evil and bring glory to his name.

      • Peter

        The article and the law seem to misunderstand the role and position of Christians and the church in society historically, and the current relationship between the citizen and the government.

        The UK does not have the same constitutional framework for the protection of speech as we have in the US. These comments assume an American audience for the article and the proposed law.

        An American’s concern (or outrage) about government censorship is not merely a slippery slope argument: Examples of violations of the first amendment are no longer (if they ever were) hypothetical: IRS agents have for the past several years specifically targeted individuals and groups for the political positions they took; the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights has and continues to attempt to remove first amendment protections (and due process protections) from individuals alleged to have uttered offensive and unwelcome speech in the presence of the accuser from the institutions within its jurisdiction; chaplains and Christians in the US armed forces are under intense scrutiny for the practice of their religion. These are real examples that demonstrate that the government should not be trusted to decide what speech is legitimate, permissible, or allowed.

        None of this should be taken as moral defense of pornography, but to dismiss as impossibly unlikely the scenario in which Christian materials and practices are the target of censorship by the government in violation of the first amendment should not be dismissed out of hand.

        Second, to say that Christians should be cautious about adopting the political mode of the culture (when they defend obscene material on the basis of the First Amendment) in which they live is useful and always timely. However, the author does not seem to recall the Church did precisely that with the virtual merger of church and state in fourth century AD. The church continued to use the police powers of the state to compel adherence to its positions (including the banning of obscene and unauthorized material; vernacular Bibles were routinely banned) until long after the Protestant Reformation, and the UK law represents another example in this trend. Indeed, to use the police powers of the state to coerce Christian moral norms represents a fundamental misunderstanding of the relationship of individual Christian to his fellow citizens of this world and the Kingdom and of the church’s place and role in this world.

        Third, how long should Christians expect to enjoy their current demographic or legislative power such they Christians can either pass or cause laws such as the one in the UK to be enacted, and how long before Christians will be the target of either organized minority interests (whether secular or fundamentalist) or a majority that finds Christianity’s views of homosexuality, monogamy, or its active evangelism efforts to be repugnant, obscene, ‘hate speech’, and seeks to ban them?

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  • Dillon

    I must say, 99% of me wants to shout a hardy “Amen” to this article, as well as to the UK’s proactive stance against pornography in an effort to champion the family. A government ought to promote those laws which promote or incentivize human flourishing, and pornography clearly stands in the way.

    And yet, there’s a small part of me that finds this worrisome, too–not because there’s *no* place for governmental censorship (such as may be the case in pirating websites, where laws are broken), but because governmental censorship–like anything else the government does–will eventually gather to itself more power.

    We might be satisfied that some moral leaders may take a stand to censor pornography from our internet searches. But once this power is granted to government–that of parent–what might stop *other* leaders in other times from censoring TGC’s website, for fear that it promotes hate and division–exclusivity and the like? If the government can censor one, it can just as easily censor the other.

    Rather than a top-down approach that says “change the laws and hope to win the hearts” (I don’t intend that as a caricature–that genuinely strikes me as the argument), I would much prefer to have such laws–please God, let them come–arise organically from the bottom-up. We preach the gospel and see our communities changed one person, one family, one church, one town at a time, until the people in those communities/cities/states demand that the type of restrictions you’ve called for here take place.

    Incidentally, while the Founding Fathers would have been aghast at the thought of the Constitution protecting pornography (as you rightly point out), pornographic censorship seems to be a fine test case concerning why the Founding Fathers also envisioned a strict separation of powers between the federal government and state governments. And it seems to me that, should this change happen at the state level, organically, from the bottom-up, from people’s votes to legislators to law (as opposed to a parental federalism top-down approach), we should see a much richer soil for gospel growth.


    • Nik

      I had the same concern, Dillon. Any time I read something like this where something I dislike is being attacked, I always think that we’ll be the next group that’s attacked once the precedent is set.

      What I liked about this that put me at some ease was that this law seems that it wouldn’t force censorship, but would force companies to give consumers the power of censorship. I would love to see a law in the U.S. that forced internet companies to give censorship options like this at no additional cost.

    • Anonymous

      I do agree that the government taking that measure of its own accord could lead to a slippery slope. However, at the same time, I would like to think that if the government were to take such a morally conscientious measure as restricting pornography, it would be a mark that it’s moving in the right direction, taking a counter-cultural stand for moral values instead of bowing to the fallen, corrupt culture of the nation and many of its people.
      As for the “change the laws and hope to win the hearts,” I would point out that often times, the hearts have to an extent already been won, but the consequences of past mistakes, wounds, or accidental discoveries are preventing much else from happening. To give a more concrete shape to that, I’ll be very open on the matter. As someone who has in the past struggled with pornography, I can say that having such content prevented by force from being accessible to me would have been a great, much-welcomed blessing. I’m fairly certain that the problem had seeds sewn at a fairly young age (9ish maybe), either by stumbling on it while my friend and I were on a computer at his house or by some similar stoke of misfortune. While the immediate impact may not have been significant, it showed me that such things could be found without too much difficulty, and likely dealt a damaging blow to my mentality regarding the proper understanding of human sexuality. Years later, after having fallen into struggling with it and having been convicted of my sin in that, there came the challenge of overcoming re-wiring done in my brain up to that point and escaping the addiction that by most accounts far exceeds smoking in difficulty to recover from. Willpower alone was by no means enough, self-imposed prevention measures perhaps helped a bit, but could be gotten around without too much of a challenge. Prayer helped somewhat, but I certainly wasn’t always in a state of prayer or remembering to do so, accountability largely helps strengthen conviction after the fact, and thoughts of dreading a confession of failure seldom deter one when on the brink of falling. In other words, the heart was very much won, but there remained the biologically-rooted constraints that needed some external force.
      In terms of soil for gospel growth, I think simply having this additional force to help many Christian men (and women) overcome this problem would go far as well, freeing them from the bonds of a destructive cycle of sin that they may more freely work to further the kingdom, and have a frequent sin issue knocked out so that they can move on to other areas of sanctification in their own lives. Beyond this, many marriages would be helped, healed, or even saved by liberation from this problem, preventing broken homes, easing obstacles to serving the kingdom resulting from having time and energy sapped by domestic problem, and more effective witness.
      Would the forceful approach fit the “old-fashioned” way of praying more, praying harder, feeling stronger conviction, having more accountability, or being more fully consumed by love, gratitude, and devotion to God? No, but I think it could be seen in the same light as other mental disorders, which I would claim pornography addiction is a form of. We don’t simply treat all mental disorders with nothing but counseling or mental exercises, especially if there’s a safe way to supplement the treatment with medication. If the patient consents (assuming they’re mentally capable of consent or lack thereof), a bit of force through biochemical processes is used.

    • Tom

      Perhaps if the government does not get into the nitty-gritty detail of the exact content that needs to be blocked, but leaves that up to each Internet Service Provider, then the chances of the government going further in the future would be less?

    • Mel

      How about protecting women and children that are used against their will for your non-censored expression of free speech?
      How can a civilized society be so ignorant about something like this? Do you really think all those women woke up one day as a child and decided “I want to be a porn star when I grow up”?
      Christians really need to quit referencing the constitution so much and listen to the Holy Spirit.

      We have a right to own guns in the United States. How about we put one in every home whether they like it or not. It’s a right so let’s force it on everyone.

    • WATYF

      Yeah, this is a terrible idea. As “great” as this sounds at first glance, as usual, people never think of the long-term consequences of these types of legislation (or the underlying philosophical underpinnings). If we relinquish our personal responsibility and give the government the job of controlling our consumption “for our own good”, it’s only a matter of time before they come up with more and more things that they don’t think we need to see “for our own good”. These things always start small, and usually with good intentions.

      As difficult as it is, we are all responsible for our own behavior. We can’t rely on our government to save us from temptation. That’s the job of the Spirit and our own prayer life (see the Lord’s Prayer).

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  • Linda

    Would love to see it happen. What is the action that we take to move the idea forward? I read a lot of articles promoting good ideas, but very few of them give a call to action.

  • Joshua Bolaji

    It’s a “double-edged sword” issue. While I applaud the efforts of my Prime Minister, at the same time it raises the question of, moral absolutes. In light of this Conservative governments recent approval of gay/lesbian marraige (which was not part of their party manifesto, or, and I stand to be corrected, the Queen’s speech), how do you push this moral issue? Here’s a word: irony.

    When governments start justifying policies on morals, then the question arises: how do we define moral right and wrong in a relativistic society? Before you start slinging the mud, I think only those who believe in moral absolutes have any right to make this kind of stand.

    Regardless, I think it’s a good move by the British government and should be applauded.

  • Anar

    “‘horrific’ internet search terms to be ‘blacklisted,'”

    This is a bit of a scary concept. Who decides what is “horrific?” The crucifixion of Jesus is horrific. To many people the gospel is horrific. Should they have power to blacklist related terms?

    • Ed


      I can see why that’s a concept that’s scary in itself and open to lot’s of abuse, but the Prime Minister isn’t saying we should block all ‘horrific’ searches whatsoever, he’s been a bit more specific.

      In context, the Prime Minister is proposing blacklisting search terms which look for pornography involving rape or child molestation. I hope we can all agree those are pretty horrific things to be looking for.

  • Clint

    Yeah, I completely disagree with this article. If you want your kids to be protected, then learn about the internet, filtering software, and all of that. Parents need to parent.

  • Mike B

    Slippery slope. When will the disallow TGC from having a website because it offends Muslims and atheists? “ISP level” censoring of offensive posts like this one? Be careful what you wish for.

    That and why do Christians always think it’s a good idea to legislate our morality onto non-believers? “You’re going to do what we think is right or you’re going to jail”. Great witness.

  • Tamara

    As a Christian, and as a wife and mother, I am absolutely anti-smut. There is probably nothing I would like more than to see porn and anything resembling it banished to the pit of hell. However on this issue I think Christians need to be very wary of what they support. I don’t think we should get behind government censorship, ever. This is yet another “slippery slope” issue. Once they have permission to lock citizens out of one type “inappropriate content” they have the capability to censor whatever they deem inappropriate content the next time. Will citizens know for certain what they are not being given access to?
    Sin is a matter of the heart. Not having access to porn on your computer will not change the fact that man’s heart is wicked. However, not having access to the Gospel, Gospel communities, etc,via the internet would indeed have a huge impact on the Church in today’s culture.
    I think we need to be leery of any precedent set by such legislation.

    • Brian

      “Not having access to porn on your computer will not change the fact that man’s heart is wicked.”
      However, not having access to porn on your computer will make up for the weakness in the wicked-hearted, yet repentant, man’s ability to comply with his desire to not live out that wickedness.
      And protecting people from porn while they are still children, making up for any of the parents’ inability to always be looking over the child’s shoulder or cope with the increasing tech-savviness of today’s youth, can prevent the beginning of a destructive progression into that very same wickedness of the heart.

  • Mikey P

    This is a horrible idea. The mailbox analogy does not hold up. We are responsible for our internet searches. We are responsible to protect our children and families from the dangers of sexual sin. Filters are readily available and they should remain in control of the consumer and not the government. The government will not save us from our sin and our vices. Only the gospel will.

    • Scott

      You are correct that government cannot save us, but let us not forget that God’s purpose for earthly government is to hold back the tide of evil for the protection (limited as that might be) of the masses.

  • Ian

    I must contest some bad theology that is being brought up in these comments. The idea that “sin is a matter of the heart” is very true, however the Bible is rather explicit in not only this but also in destroying ALL idols. Pornography is an idol. Millions come to the altar of pornography on a daily basis, and measures such as this deal a serious blow to this wicked idol. We see God, on countless occasions, call upon the people of Israel to destroy their pagan shrines and to turn to Him. You notice that He does not only call upon the heart, but upon the actions of man. Actions go a long way to showing the heart’s true intent.

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  • Chris J

    This would be good in theory, but I don’t support it, because it will be technically impossible to accomplish and I believe censorship is a slippery slope. With literally billions of web pages on the internet, even if there was an error rate of 1% in classifying sites that should be censored, we would be blocking millions of mislabeled websites. What if this blog was taken down, for instance, because it had the word pornography in the header. Google can barely classify a websites goals and what it is supposedly delivering, I can’t trust the government to do any better. This would be bad for ecommerce and it would give the government easy access to block things on a whim, killing entire organizations who have become misclassified. In theory, I would love it if this was enacted, but in practice, it will not work. The internet is a different beast, created open by nature. We have to take steps individually to protect ourselves and our families from all of the crud on the internet. I’m a web developer by trade and also believe that we are losing a lot of freedoms each day. I think we as Christians should be advocating tools and resources to protect ourselves, not asking the government to take care of it and turn the internet into a political tool.

    • Brian

      Your point about things being blocked purely by mistake (as per Google classification) is about the only truly good argument I’ve heard as to why this could be a bad thing.
      As for the government having too much precedent for future censorship, the way I see it, it’s already overstepped its boundaries at least a few times already, so such an action would be nothing new. Here at least, it would be for a good cause for once.

  • Joe Carter

    It’s disappointing to see so many people claim that this is a “slippery slope” that could lead to censorship of Christians. Here are a number of problems with that claim:

    1) Religious speech is protected by the First Amendment, pornographic images are not.

    2) The government already has the right and the authority to ban pornographic images that a particular community deems obscene. They just don’t do it. This is not given the government a new power. It is expecting them to uphold laws that are already in place.

    3) The slippery slope argument implies that “A will lead to B.” If this were true about censorship of pornography then why hasn’t the postal service started censoring religious materials? After all the pornographic items were censored by the government since the country’s founding and the Comstock Act made it illegal to even send materials about abortion. That law was put in place in 1873.

    We can’t act as if the First Amendment does not exist. The idea that there is a slippery slope from banning pornography to restricting Christian speech is the type of propaganda that secular civil libertarians may try to pass off on the gullible. It’s not really a serious argument that Christians should use to prevent taking commonsense measures to reduce one of the country’s biggest moral problems.

    • Mike B

      “Religious speech is protected by the First Amendment, pornographic images are not.”

      Yes it is. Obscenity and child pornography are not but every other form is.

      “The government already has the right and the authority to ban pornographic images that a particular community deems obscene. They just don’t do it. This is not given the government a new power. It is expecting them to uphold laws that are already in place.”

      Your (Christianity’s) definition of obscenity is not the legal definition.

      “The slippery slope argument implies that “A will lead to B.” If this were true about censorship of pornography then why hasn’t the postal service started censoring religious materials? After all the pornographic items were censored by the government since the country’s founding and the Comstock Act made it illegal to even send materials about abortion. That law was put in place in 1873.”

      Sending materials about abortion was overruled. And Comstock only bars obscene content. Not pornography.

      So no, it’s not just “secular libertarians passing propaganda”. It’s concerned Christians that don’t trust the government.

    • http://www.christianvagabond.com Christian Vagabond

      The legislation is being proposed in the UK, which does not have a First Amendment. Also, many European countries have an established history of censoring what the government deems hateful speech, and those guidelines would include many of the articles posted on TGC and other Christian sites.

    • Dillon

      Dear brother, I don’t mean to disappoint. I’m just as eager to see the garbage heaped out of our society as you are. But suffice it to say, I don’t think the arguments are quite as…final?…as you seem to imply. Surely we can be agreed that it would be better for our communities to throw out the trash willingly–to handle that responsibility at the local church/community level, preaching the gospel, seeing men and women genuinely converted, such that our people don’t *want* the porn anymore. Let them know it as the shoddy, cheap and empty idol that it is–not because our government says so, but because the gospel says so.

      A few further reflections, if nothing else, to prime to pump for thought. Remember, brother–my strong feeling is that most of those posting on this page are on the same side as you are. I *want* such laws enacted. The only difference is, I find it both more secure and defensible that they be enacted from bottom-up rather than top-down.

      First: Your spot-on statement that the First Amendment protects freedom of religious exercise, AND that this First Amendment freedom of speech need not extend to pornographic images, I find completely agreeable. Of course the First Amendment exists, and of course there are explicit differences in protection between religious exercise and pornography.
      The problem as I see it, however, is that both you and I are depending on an “originalist” hermeneutic when we approach the constitution in order to find that reading, whereby porn does not qualify as “speech.” Now, I’m quite prepared to defend an originalist reading of the constitution at some length, as I’m sure you would be as well. But just because we may be confident in an originalist reading does not mean that the Supreme Court’s precedents, or our legislature’s laws, will follow suit. I’m guessing that if we were to file claim against a corporation for shelling their porn on the streets of New York or Philadelphia, and that suit found its way to the Supreme Court, we would likely lose. This suggests to me that there is more work to be done at the level of social conscience before such suits (or laws crafted) would be helpful–i.e., there is more preaching/teaching of the gospel to be done.
      And even now, precisely what is protected by the First Amendment religious exercise clause, especially on behalf of Christians, is under serious, serious attack, and I am not eager to take our free religious speech for granted. This right once believed immovable is being tried and tested in courts as we speak, and it’s not clear to me that, 20 years down the road, our “right to free religious speech” will look exactly as it does now. Is it so farfetched to think that pastors may soon be “censored” from preaching Romans 1?

      Second: Again, we’re largely in agreement. The government *does* have the power to ban certain content, if, as you said (speaking directly to the point I hope to highlight), *a community deems it obscene.* What the UK has done is, at least in measure, usurped that role of community condemnation on behalf of its people. In brief, the democratic process ought to work its way out. Sometimes, the result of that democratic process is sinful (i.e., free access to porn.) As Carson likes to say: “If you have more sinners voting, you have more sinners voting!” And yet we also may say with Churchill that Democracy is “the worst form of government–except for all the rest,” and the slippery slope is a big part of why this is so. Power corrupts. And in a fallen world, the best means of maintaining order has proven, again and again, to be in those forms of government where power is *not* concentrated, but disseminated. (This is one reason why I’m a conservative, and why I’m surprised more academics aren’t. Neither group is a fan of concentrated power–there are at least some overlapping interests.) But this is the heart of the slippery slope censorship problem. It runs towards concentration of power–not dissemination–UNLESS that power arises bottom-up from the people.

      To your third point, I’m not quite sure I’ve followed your argument. Would you mind clarifying?

      I insist again–I want those same laws just as much as you, brother, and given the opportunity to cast my vote–even at the federal level–I confess I would vote to ban porn. And I would do this as one Christian participant in the fallen democratic process, recalling that righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a rebuke to any people.

      But I would cast this vote *in spite of* these real dangers–not because I believed them misguided; they aren’t. Should we vote to ban porn federally, we might then give just as much thought to how we should safeguard the rights (rights, that is, at the horizontal level) of those whose sense of morality and religious exercise (or none) is quite different from our own. Because when their party is in power, I don’t want them telling me that I can’t preach Romans 1, because the constitutional right to free religious exercise I was so sure to stand on is to be interpreted privately and may not shape public discourse.

      (And should the day come, pray God, we would preach Romans 1 anyway.)

  • basher

    I don’t get all the backlash. Censorship is one thing, but there is a free choice to “opt in” to access to pornography in this case, if I’m reading it correctly.

    As Christians, we should be making no provision for the flesh. It almost has me giddy to think of something so redemptive coming out of a post-Christian UK!

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  • Rob

    This is not censorship. This is not the British government blocking porn. In effect, it is more like the legal treatment applied to junk mail or those irritating cold calls about payment protection insurance.

    The government are forcing internet providers to have a mechanism for customers to be able to block or avoid porn (similar to the telephone providers and postal service opt outs which operated in the past).

    Anyone who wishes to receive the material still has the freedom to do so, its not like the government are deleting it from the internet or something.

    Furthermore, it is not censorship to remove a chunk of information which everyone (including non-christians through a common moral sense shared by all humans) agrees is likely to unduly cause or incite harm (e.g. child porn, rape porn, preaching racial hatred).

    Also, I don’t think the UK is post-Christian. Both popular culture and christian culture is different here to how it is in the US. To define it as post-christian is to undermine the very real Christian presence in the UK. We may be less strident or political and our culture may be different but we’re still here quietly doing the Lord’s work. Just look at the Church of Englands’s and Archbishop of Canterbury’s recent moves against the way the financial system profits from the most desperate in society. We don’t look for the government to protect us as Christians, we first look and act for the good of this country and all it’s inhabitants not just the christians. We’re not on the defensive…

    • Scott

      Great post, Rob! The idea that the UK is “Post-Christian” and the U.S. is not, is laughable.

      I am seeing a lot of inconsistencies in these arguments. Some rightly point out that government cannot save us only the Gospel can. Yet they ignore the fact that God is sovereign over government and has established a role and purpose for the government that is different than the role and purpose He has given the church, which is to hold back the tide of evil for the protection of the masses. Romans 13

      Another problem is that we Americans are so concerned with our individual rights that in some cases it borders on becoming idolatrous. The Gospel is not a call to demand individual rights, far from it. I am not suggesting that Christians should stand on the sidelines and do nothing, but we need to be careful that we are not in fact idolizing our “Rights.”

  • Steven

    Personally, I say, go ahead with this kind of censorship. While I’ve read and noted the concerns that responders have to this article, it is a slippery slope fallacy to suggest that opening the door to censorship will necessarily lead to it. I consider the horrors of pornography, it’s effect on our youth, the hurtfulness to men/women/marriages, the hurt to does to those involved in the industry, more, to be far more weighty than the possible backlash of censorship. I see pornography on epicidemic lines like abortion. The thought of ending its open reign on this nation is incredibly enticing.

    I want to say further, almost as a side note but pertaining to this. I’ve noticed the responders have averaged in the middle saying “this is a nice idea but I’m afraid of what it might do”. Christian friends! How have we become a people so caterized by fear? We would rather endure with sin because of the fear of change–the possibility of what could be? Our mentality at times is “d—ed if we do, d—ed if we don’t (but at least I know what to expect from my current horrible situation)”. We seem to be Christians who are paralyzed by fear, fear of man. We need to be rationale and thoughtful in our decisions but when fear of the unknown grips us, that’s not faith.

    If we realistically had the chance to put major halts on this destructive force, we wouldn’t take it because….well…. who know what could happen?! That is not how we function. We are the people of God, we fear no man. Our fear and awe are reserved for Him. “Have I not commanded you? Do not be afraid nor dismayed for the Lord your God goes with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9 (moreso, we are His children through The covenant of Abraham) — even of we were to begin to slide down that slope, we could deal with it then.

    • Meredith

      Thank you, Steven! I love your call to us as Christians not to be ruled by fear. I was very disappointed by all the comments saying, in effect, that it’s better to keep pornography in its current state of universal accessibility in the US because well, then, at least the government can’t censor us. The way I read that is that Christians would rather the porn industry continue its unfettered reign, would rather continue to risk the abuse of precious children (not to mention the innocence of thousands of others who accidentally stumble on porn and become addicted), would rather see women continue to be objectified, raped, and humiliated, would rather refuse people struggling with porn a tool to help them flee temptation, than risk the government being allowed to curtail a “right” to look at whatever we want (because if the government starts putting a stop to porn, we’ll somehow end up like North Korea!)

      Your rebuke is much more gracious than mine would have been. Thank you! :-)

    • Brian

      Indeed. Matthew 5:29-30. Likely not mere coincidence that those verses were placed (or rather, stated) right after Matthew 5:28.

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  • http://www.steadyonband.com Jeff S

    I don’t see how this is technically workable. We are talking about blocking the second highest source of internet traffic (it was first until very recently) from people who are very motivated to get around it. It won’t be cheap, so who is going to pay for it? Yes there is software to already do this, but if there are false positives or negatives, they aren’t facing regulation issues. Once it becomes law, letting something get through or blocking something you shouldn’t have goes to a whole new level.

    I would totally support this from a philosophical standpoint if it was just a matter of flipping a switch. If people can opt in, it’s not really censorship.

  • Mel

    I’m wondering if it has occurred to any of these people why we do not see pornography on ABC, NBC, and CBS. Why certain words are banned? Why they black out when someone holds up their middle finger? It’s just a finger.
    Our country loves sin, including Christians. They will scream gray area every time you bring up entertainment. Was it censorship when married couples had twin beds on TV? How has religious freedom benefited from the freedom sin has gained on those three channels?
    You have a secular liberal country like Great Britain recognizing the harm to families that pornography causes and here you have conservatives arguing freedom from censorship.
    I guess as long as they can keep their children from seeing it that is all that matters. So what if all the other children in the country have easy access to it, are victimized by it. They are not our concern?

    When I was a teenager the small town I lived in had a topless go-go bar. It was on the highway running through the town. Pervs came from all over to drink their beer there. The Lutheran ladies in town got together and got an ordinance passed that got rid of the topless go-go part. He had to turn it into a family pizza parlor. People had to drive a little farther to the next town to see their strippers. It was a trashy town with poor property values. They finally got that one closed down and the town is starting to grow. Houses are being built and property values are going up.
    Explain to me how censorship hurt those towns, please?

  • JohnM

    I’m not sure the slippery slope is always a fallacy. That aside, I don’t recognize any right to pornography because there is no *right* to do anything that is inherently wrong – and, as I assume every Christian does, I know that producing or consuming pornography is wrong. In principal a government has the authority to proscribe anything that is inherently wrong, (though it’s not always necessary, reasonable, or practical to do so) the action or inaction of any actual government not withstanding.

    What strikes me though is the futility, absurdity, and hypocrisy of any modern society mandating “family friendly filters”, given the degree of obscenity, lewdness, sensuality, and indiscretion that is already generally accepted and long since taken for granted in these same societies.

  • Dave

    Your article is headed “Why Online Pornography is Being Blocked in the UK…” , but you haven’t recognised the real answer to this question.

    Here are the real reasons this is happening in the UK:

    Cameron’s views on gay marriage: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/10200636/I-want-to-export-gay-marriage-around-the-world-says-David-Cameron.html

    Cameron championed the forcing through Parliament of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013, despite the fact that his party did not even mention gay marriage at all in their manifesto at the last general election, and therefore had no mandate from the electorate for this.

    Cameron has alienated a lot of traditionally Conservative supporters/voters with conservative moral values by his support of gay marriage, and he knows it full well.

    Hence he is now attempting to find other issues on which he might win back some of the supporters he lost before the next general election. His support of moves like the blocking of online pornography is a good example of his hypocritical political manoeuvring.

  • http://jasondykstrawrites.com jasondykstrawrites.com

    Regardless of how one feels about government censorship, I always enjoy seeing how sooner or later, people give up the notion that living sinfully is better than living according to God’s moral standards. What we can all take away from this is, “Yeah we went down the porn road, and such lust destroyed us just like God said it would. We’re much better off without it.” My hope is that we can learn from such unnecessary forays into what God knows is bad for us and simply trust him prospectively next time. He really does now what he’s talking about!

  • Dillon

    I’m glad this blog has taken the turns it has, since conversations about “rights”, God’s sovereignty over government and its responsibility to the unbeliever (as per Romans 13), and individualism are big ones that we as Christians need to have. And while the American disposition has largely been towards individual rights occasionally at the expense of communal concerns–that’s entirely true (and dangerous)–it *must* not follow that communal rights always trump individual rights (under whatever definition we select). There are huge Biblical and moral dangers bound up with strong communal rebellion, too. What we don’t want is a pendulum swing away from individualism–it’s just not intellectually fair to that heritage. The gospel has something to say about both individualism and communalism in turn.

    But this is what I meant by the arguments not being quite so final. There are huge systems of presuppositions, Biblical and otherwise, operating behind our conclusions, and it’s most productive for conversations like these to begin in those places. (And it’s not helpful to say, “Ours is shaped by the Bible and yours isn’t.” We are all tainted with some unbiblical presuppositions that we must all take care to consider.)

    I would point out, also, that in the majority of examples respondents posted, each one fits the criteria I outlined originally–that when a local community deems content obscene, and it is thereby blocked, I see this as a healthy thing.

    Finally, briefly, I’m not sure it’s right to call the government’s default mode of “off” neutrality just because users have the option of switching content on. (I’m not saying government neutrality is a good or bad thing–just saying, it’s default switch to “off” I believe still qualifies as one type of censorship.) And the difficulty with examples concerning mail or television blurred fingers or cold-calls is that these are things received, *where the receiver has no control over content.* (Though for TV, this is changing–technology is slowly personalizing commercial content, for instance. But for now, while it’s true I may select a channel, I have no control over what comes from the other end of that channel.) Whereas with porn, the content must be sought. (And when it’s not–say, as with pop-ups–the content must indeed be banned, for precisely the same reason pornographic images on TV must be banned–the content was not sought intentionally.)

    True, in the UK, porn sought may still be sought, but my only point here is to say that putting up that one extra hurdle and then saying, “Look, it’s not that high to jump over, so it doesn’t qualify as censorship,” I’m not sure follows. When the federal government says “jump” at all, I must confess, others and I look at the history of other governments that began by saying “Jump this short distance,” and slowly began to demand their people jump incrementally higher over the years–I find the slippery slope legitimate and worrisome. Maybe you don’t find this troubling at all. Fair enough. But it’d be a denial of history to say that it can’t happen.

    One last point just about discourse in general–it’s never helpful in dialogue to say that the person you’re arguing against, in effect, wants rape to continue. I’m not personally offended, but others could be (who knows the struggles of the person behind the keys?), and it’s important, I think, to handle the people behind the arguments we find disagreeable with care, giving them the benefit of the doubt, believing the best of them, and so on. As Tim Keller likes to say, we must engage the opinions we disagree with such that we can articulate their concerns as well or better than they themselves can, and then interact with them from their positions of strength–not their positions of weakness. I’m willing to admit that the positions I’ve outlined may be tainted by libertarian thinking. The question then is, What are the rest of us tainted by?

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  • Sue Feltz

    I believe that it should not be allowed anywhere. Porn is just un Godly and should be be anywhere to see.

  • David Smith

    I couldn’t get past your initial bad analogy.