Montana Politics

A Bill the 2011 Montana Legislature Could Love

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Ah, Arizona. Whenever I worry that Montana had the most embarrassing legislature, I can260px-Support_censorship always turn to your arid lands and addled law enforcement to remind myself that it could be worse.

It seems that five Senators in Arizona have crafted a bill which would make it a fireable offense for a teacher or college professor to engage “in speech or conduct that would violate the standards adopted by the Federal Communications Commission concerning obscenity, indecency and profanity if that speech or conduct were broadcast on television or radio.”

Ignoring that this poorly-crafted unconstitutional mess of a bill would make it possible to fire a teacher for saying a naughty word in the privacy of her own home, as written, it would make it impossible for her to go to the bathroom, bathe, or have sex. Now I know conservatives want to control the sex lives of every American they can, but this seems to go just a step too far.

Once in awhile, great literature offends our sensibilities and our sense of decorum. Occasionally, it even uses some salty language to accomplish that goal. For legislators to seriously argue for censoring Shakespeare, Steinbeck, Morrison, Salinger, Chaucer, to name just a few, is the real obscenity.

Of course, now that I’ve posted this, I assume Wendy Warburton will start drafting a bill for her Home Guard to enforce a similar law here.

About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is a seventeen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.

His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.

In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

4 Comments

  • Ah, the old "corn for porn" swap. Really brings me back.

    What if more people, including teachers and their powerful unions, had fought the original 1990 law that prohibited the NEA foundation from financing obscene material? The 1990 law did leave it to the courts to use criminal statutes to determine a proper definition of obscenity.

    In 1992, Jesse Helms leveraged a stricter definition used by the Federal Communications Commission which said that no tax dollars shall be used "to promote, disseminate or produce materials that depict or describe, in a patently offensive way, sexual or excretory activities or organs." The House had already approved a measure to increase (from $1.37 to $1.97/cow/calf pair) fees paid by western cattle ranchers for grazing on federal land. Both houses agreed to drop the grazing fee increase–if the Senate would drop the Helms amendment restricting funding of obscene art.

  • In the end, the "corn for porn" deal between Helms and House Democrats, which included a prominent role for our own Representative at the time, resulted in the end of NEA individual artist grants altogether. Now, signed contracts are required for anyone receiving federal art funding — contracts include questions about personal drug use and obscenity. Today, the NEA is essentially dead to most contemporary visual artists.

  • Only you could take some obscure proposal from a different state and slam Repubs here.

    Grasping straws on the way down.

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