The Fight Against Obscenity

In several of the periodicals which we have perused recently, religious and secular, we have noticed that there is considerable alarm raised with respect to and protest against the corrupt literature and pictures being sent through the mails to our American youth. 

I have before me at the moment two articles both of which sound alarm and encourage a fight against obscenity: one appearing in Christian Economics, and another in Christianity Today, November 3 and 9, 1959, respectively. 

Christian Economics tells us that “a survey of the magazine stands in the city of Spokane revealed over 100 periodicals featuring sex obscenity in varying degrees.” We are also told that a non-sectarian organization called the “Citizens for Decent Literature, Inc.,” has been organized to help stamp out the scourge. In one campaign conducted in December, 1958 this organization caused over 30 magazines to disappear from circulation. This organization believes that the fight must be carried on by other local organizations formed in each community throughout the country, and that with national concerted effort this evil can be removed from the American scene. 

Christianity Today published an interview with Postmaster General Arthur E. Summerfield in order to show to its readers the seriousness of obscenity in the mails. Mr. Summerfield reveals some startling figures and observations. Here are some of the questions he answered: 

“What kinds of obscene materials are sent through the mails? Obscene and lewd pictures, slides, films, and sex literature, as well as material dealing with the vilest perversions. Much of it is so filthy and revolting in nature that it defies description.” 

“Is mail order obscenity increasing? The mail order obscenity racket has tripled in the past five years and can double again in the next few years unless it is stopped.” 

“How large a business is it? Our Inspection Service estimates that sales from mail order obscenity are now running at the rate of a half billion dollars a year. They further estimate it will become a billion-dollar racket within the next several years if it progresses at its present rate of speed.” 

“Filth peddlers will invade American homes by soliciting at least a million teen-age youngsters in the next 12 months. That’s one child out of every thirty-five of school age in America!” 

“How does it operate? Most dealers in mail order obscenity are relatively small-time operators with very little capital invested in their business. Profits are so large that many of them have fantastic returns on their investments. Increasingly they are directing their sales efforts toward the youth of America, both boys and girls.” 

“How do dealers in obscenity get names of children for their mailing lists? The names of youngsters are secured in a variety of ways. In some instances the dealers in obscenity buy mailing lists from legitimate list brokers who are not aware of the use to which the lists are to be put. In other instances they build their own lists by assembling the names and addresses of graduates of high school classes, Boy Scout or Girl Scout’ groups, church clubs or other organizations of youngsters. In other instances, they advertise model airplanes or stamps or doll dress kits to youngsters at attractive prices and actually send them these articles for the money received. However, their primary purpose is to get names and addresses by this procedure.” 

“What can parents do to stop this racket? If parents find any obscene sales solicitations in the letters sent to their youngsters they can help us stop this racket by doing these two simple things: 

1. Collect all the material received, including the envelope. 

2. Deliver this material, along with the envelope, to their local postmaster in person or by mail. 

The Post Office Department will handle the matter from there on. It is not necessary for the parents or their children to sign a formal complaint or to appear in court.” 

“What is the Post Office Department doing to drive obscenity from the mails? For the past six months the Post Office Department has intensified its efforts to drive obscenity from the mails. We have testified before the Congress as to the seriousness of this problem. We have exposed this racket in considerable detail to the press, the radio and TV. We have made numerous speeches about this menace before many religious, parents’ and women’s groups around the country. Right now the Postal Inspection Service is spending a major portion of its time on pornography cases. In the past year it obtained 45 percent more convictions than in the previous year.” 

Mr. Summerfield is also hopeful that this devastating menace can be and will be wiped out when parents and civic groups and the proper government agencies concentrate on the problem. 

It surely behooves us to heed these warnings and not assume an indifferent attitude respecting this problem. Let us not as Protestant Reformed parents think that our children are immune to this infectious scourge that is fast engulfing the youth of our nation. Rather, let us also watch and pray, lest we fall a prey.