Upholding the Rule of Law Against Obscenity in Educational Institutions

Upholding the Rule of Law Against Obscenity in Educational Institutions

Published Oct 31, 2023

In South Carolina, the ongoing concerns regarding obscene books in school libraries bring sections 16-15-375 and 16-15-385 of the state's code of laws into focus. These sections delineate what's deemed harmful or obscene material for minors and lay down the penalties awaiting those who distribute such materials to the young. Crafted to preserve youthful innocence and shield them from the potential harm of obscene content, these laws are crucial. Amidst rising apprehensions over obscene books in school libraries, the imperative to enforce these laws becomes not only clear but urgent. This sets the stage for a deeper exploration into the enforcement, or lack thereof, of these laws and the collective responsibility of the Attorney General, legislators, and the community to ensure that schools remain sanctuaries of learning, not hubs of obscenity.

Obscenity Laws Explained

Within the legal framework of South Carolina are sections of the law crafted to protect the young and the public at large from obscenity. Section 16-15-305 acts against the dissemination and promotion of obscene materials to the populace, covering what defines obscenity and its dissemination, albeit without a specific focus on minors. Sections 16-15-345 and 16-15-355 narrow down the focus, acting as safeguards against the dissemination of obscene materials to minors under 18 and 12 years of age, respectively. The laws reflect a stricter stance on protecting younger minors, escalating the penalty to up to fifteen years of imprisonment.

Section 16-15-385 is particularly relevant when it comes to educational settings. It acts against the spread of harmful material to minors and the exposure of harmful performances to them. Its intent is clear—those who knowingly channel harmful material to minors or let them view harmful live performances are in the wrong. Although there's a provision in place for defendants associated with legitimate entities like schools, the law expects a solid backing of their claims, ensuring that a school badge isn't a free pass.

Shifting focus to Section 16-15-375, this part of South Carolina's state code clarifies what's considered obscene material. It provides three clear benchmarks: the explicit portrayal of sexual conduct, material that incites a minor's prurient interest in sex, and the absence of any serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value for minors. Moreover, the emphasis on "community standards" reflects an approach that acknowledges that the evaluation of obscenity should align with a community's prevailing moral standings.

Problems with the Obscenity Laws


It's crucial to mention that the law 16-15-375 has some ambiguities. The phrases “harmful to minors,” “contemporary community standards,” and “patently offensive” can be unclear, which might lead to different interpretations in different places. However, this shouldn’t be a reason to push this law aside. The law serves a purpose, and if we don’t use it when needed, what’s the point? Despite its grey areas, this law provides a roadmap for tackling issues of obscenity, especially when it comes to protecting minors. So, it's time we address its vague spots and utilize it to ensure the safety and moral standards of our community.

Affirmative Defense Clause

The affirmative defense clause within 16-15-385 (C), notably encompassing schools, necessitates rigorous re-evaluation to prevent it from becoming a legal loophole allowing obscene materials into educational settings. A robust dialogue involving legislators, legal experts, and the public is essential for discussing its repeal or amendment. When a defendant employs this clause, they bear the burden of proof, requiring solid evidence to support their defense. This clause, although a shield against liability, demands thorough validation of evidence, marking a critical juncture in the legal and moral debate against obscene material dissemination. It propels the Attorney General, legislators, and the community into an expansive dialogue to understand the ramifications of this clause and strategize a way forward that enforces the rule of law while preserving the moral and educational integrity of society. This discussion transcends legal debate, urging a societal dialogue to ensure the rule of law is upheld firmly against obscenity in educational establishments.

Critical Questions

The discussion surrounding the enforcement of South Carolina Code Section 16-15-385 brings to light some pressing questions that demand concrete responses. The core of the issue lies in: Why hasn’t there been a dedicated effort to spotlight potential breaches of this section to the Attorney General? And if such breaches have indeed been highlighted, why hasn’t the Attorney General taken assertive steps to delve into each possible infringement? These questions cut to the heart of the effectiveness of the rule of law in tackling the dissemination of obscene materials, particularly to minors. The strength of the rule of law isn’t just about the existence of laws but hinges on the vigorous enforcement of these laws. When the laws provide a clear legal pathway to stop the flow of obscene materials, the inertia or slow pace of enforcement raises concerns about the willingness to uphold the rule of law.

Moreover, this situation highlights the importance of community involvement in enforcing the rule of law. It's not just up to the authorities. Parents, educators, and community leaders also need to speak up. The law won’t enforce itself; it needs people to bring issues to light and demand action. Especially when it comes to keeping obscene materials out of schools, passive observation is not an option. Everyone needs to step up, report potential issues to the Attorney General, and push for action. When the whole community comes together to say, “this isn’t acceptable,” it prompts the Attorney General and other responsible entities to take action too. It’s about making the rule of law a living force that keeps our schools safe and our education sound. This isn’t just about asking questions; it’s a call to action, reminding us all how crucial it is to be involved and uphold the rule of law.

Disclaimer: The insights and interpretations presented herein stem from a conservative constitutional viewpoint. It's important to note that we are not legal professionals, and thus, the content shared should not be construed as legal advice. We emphasize the importance of personal due diligence, particularly for those who might find themselves impacted by the subject matter at hand. We advocate for a proactive approach: delve into the specifics of the law, form an informed perspective based on your comprehension, and articulate any concerns or queries you may have. Engaging with your local legislative representative is a constructive step towards addressing any issues or seeking further clarification.

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