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CBLDF: New Censorship Bill Turns Parents Into Prosecutors

by  in Comic News Comment
CBLDF: New Censorship Bill Turns Parents Into Prosecutors

Official Press Release

On April 28, California Congressman Duncan Hunter (R) introduced
legislation that could “turn parents into prosecuting attorneys
fighting a wave of obscenity,” the representative told

H.B. 4239, also called the “Parents’ Empowerment Act,”
would allow the parent or guardian of a minor to sue in federal court
anyone who knowingly disseminates any media containing “material
that is harmful to minors” if the material is distributed in a way
that “a reasonable person can expect a substantial number of
minors to be exposed to the material and the minor, as a result to
exposure to the material, is likely to suffer personal or emotional
injury or injury to mental or moral welfare.” The bill has been
referred to the House Judiciary Committee.

The bill allows compensatory damages starting at no less than $10,000
for any instance in which a minor is exposed to “harmful to
minors” entertainment products. The bill also allows that punitive
damages and reasonable fees may be awarded to the prevailing party at
the discretion of the court. The bill also seeks to strengthen the
current test courts utilize in determining what is obscene material by
providing a separate definition of obscenity specifically for
children. It is an affirmative defense to action under this bill if a
parent or guardian of the minor owned the material.

The bill is in its earliest stage, but if it passes, it will seriously
threaten retailers, distributors, and publishers. talked to
Hunter who said, “If the people who published (the material),
published it in such a way that they could reasonably have expected
children to access it, then the parents can receive an award of

“This bill is troubling on several levels,” explains CBLDF
Director Charles Brownstein. “It appears to allow for civil
actions against any, or every, member of the dissemination food chain,
from the retailer to the distributor to the publisher, of work that an
individual parent may object to. So any citizen, using their own sense
of what is obscene or harmful to minors, can bring suit. Considering
that comics still suffer the cultural and legal stigma of being
perceived as a juvenile medium, this bill could become a dangerous
weapon in the hands of an individual who walks into a comic book store
and is shocked to find that comics offer much more than Archie and

Hunter’s bill enjoys the support of several religious, family, and
conservative legal groups including the Christian Coalition, the
American Center for Law and Justice and the World Family Policy Center
at Brigham Young University. Working closely with Media Coalition, the
CBLDF will continue to monitor the progress of this bill.

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