Bill Would Ban Military Selling Playboys, Penthouse to Troops
ARMY TIMES | Thursday Apr 24, 2008
Concerned that the military is selling pornography in exchange stores in spite of a ban, one lawmaker has introduced a bill to clean up the matter.
“Our troops should not see their honor sullied so that the moguls behind magazines like Playboy and Penthouse can profit,” said Rep. Paul Broun, R-Ga., unveiling his House bill April 16.
His Military Honor and Decency Act would amend a provision of the 1997 Defense Authorization Act that banned sales of “sexually explicit material” on military bases.
The new language would “close existing loopholes” in regulations to bring the military “into compliance with the intent of the 1997 law,” Broun said.
“Allowing sale of pornography on military bases has harmed military men and women by escalating the number of violent, sexual crimes, feeding a base addiction, eroding the family as the primary building block of society, and denigrating the moral standing of our troops both here and abroad,” Broun said.
Broun said he wants to bring the Defense Department into compliance with the intent of the 1997 law “so that taxpayers will not be footing the costs of distributing pornography.”
Exchange officials noted that tax dollars are not used to procure magazines in the system’s largely self-funded operations.
But Broun’s spokesman John Kennedy contended that taxpayer dollars are involved — “used to pay military salaries, so taxpayer money is, in effect, being used to buy these materials,” he said.
Broun’s bill, which has 15 co-sponsors and has been referred to the House Armed Services Committee for consideration, would tighten the definition of pornography. One part of the provision states that if a print publication is a periodical, it would be considered sexually explicit if “it regularly features or gives prominence to nudity or sexual or excretory activities or organs in a lascivious way.”
Previously, defense officials have said, they do not consider nudity in itself to be “lascivious.”
“It’s not our intent to have an art magazine banned,” Kennedy said. “Our intention is to enforce the 1997 law so that magazines are banned that feature nudity in a way to develop a prurient interest in a reader.”
He said Broun has specifically named Playboy and Penthouse because those two publications “were always intended to be banned and will now be covered.”
Playboy was determined not to be sexually explicit by the Defense Department’s Resale Activities Board of Review.
Although Penthouse initially was banned, new ownership and a new editing team have revised its format, and the Defense Department board allowed it to return to exchanges after another review last year.
“Few people will contest the notion that Playboy and Penthouse and others are sexually explicit,” Kennedy said. “However, DoD officials with a wink and a nod do not find that these rise to the definition.”
Kennedy said Broun “is a medical doctor and ‘addictionologist’ who is familiar with the negative consequences associated with long-term exposure to pornography,” especially women in the military “who have to deal with this.”
Until now, the board has been required to review only newly submitted material, and also reconsider material banned for at least five years, at the request of the publication.
Broun’s proposed legislation would require the Defense Department to annually review all material that is not deemed sexually explicit now, and is therefore allowed in military stores, to determine if it should be prohibited.
The board did not meet between 2000 and 2005, Broun said. In 2006, the Defense Department changed its policy to let banned material be resubmitted for review every five years.
Former Penthouse publisher Bob Guccione challenged the 1997 law in court, claiming it violated his free-speech rights by using government bureaucrats as censors.
A U.S. district court judge agreed and barred enforcement of the law. But a divided appeals court overruled, saying military exchanges are “nonpublic forums in which the government may restrict the content of speech.”
The Supreme Court sided with the appeals court and declined to hear the case in June 1998.