Paul Cameron’s experience with censorship
March 24th, 2010
Paul Cameron longs for the good ol’ days when homosexuality was taboo, outlawed, considered a mental illness, a cause for lobotomies or other bizarre experimentation, and unacceptable in polite society.
In a strange turn of events, Cameron’s Family Research Institute briefly got a chance to relive those days, but from the other side. In a move reminiscent of the 50’s, FRI’s March 2010 newsletter was deemed obscene by the US Post Office. (Colorado Springs Gazette)
On March 4, according to the complaint sent to the Postal Service by Cameron’s attorney, the newsletter was delivered to the bulk mailing office on Fountain Boulevard and was initially approved for bulk mailing.
The next day, however, Cameron’s group was informed by postal supervisor Paul Hill that it did not qualify for the nonprofit mailing rate because it violated the regulations against mailing material that was “obscene” and incited forcible resistance to the government, the complaint stated.
Hill later told the group’s representative that the initial decision had been reviewed and the newsletter would be accepted at a slightly higher pre-sorted rate, which Turner said is about 3 cents per piece more than the nonprofit rate.
Cameron does not appear to post his newsletter online in pdf or other whole form. However, the two pieces which we were able to review do not fit the definition of obscene. Offensive, untruthful, and brimming with contempt, but not obscene.
Although FRI is but a vehicle through with Cameron indulges his personal hatred, it is nonetheless a valid non-profit organization and does engage in “educational” activities. And while FRI is listed as a Hate Group by the SPLC (as is anyone who relies too much on Cameron’s claims), the direction of one’s opinion about homosexuality is not cause for denying non-profit status.
Finally the USPS finally did the right thing. After a review by the Postal Service headquarters, the USPS reversed the local decision and restored FRI’s non-profit billing rate.
Ironically, Cameron owes his freedom to mail objectionable materials about homosexuality in part to the “militant homosexual activists” which he so despises. A decision more than 50 years ago by the Supreme Court had cleared FRI from the USPS’ objections to materials about homosexuality.
Up until 1957 material that was depraved or corrupting of young mind was considered obscene. And obscene material was not protected under the First Amendment. But in that year, the SCOTUS changed the definition of obscene to be “whether to the average person, applying contemporary community standards, the dominant theme of the material taken as a whole appeals to the prurient interest.”
But the relevant application of this decision was the following year in One, Inc. v. Olesen, a gay rights case.
The Postmaster of Los Angeles had declared that the October 1954 issue of One Magazine, an advocacy, education, and general interest magazine for gays and lesbians, was obscene and thus banned from the postal service. The magazine lost in court in March 1956 and at the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in February 1957.
But the Supreme Court didn’t even wait for oral testimony and on January 13, 1958, acting collectively, issued a one sentence reversal based on the previous year’s decision thereby determining that material about homosexuality was not necessarily obscene.
So Paul Cameron has a pre-Stonewall gay publication to thank for his postal discount. But somehow I suspect that his “thank you” card has been lost in the mail.