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Florida's Obscenity Laws that Protect Minors and Why You Should be Paying Attention

United States Obscenity Laws

A heated debate has been underway for some time now about the materials that our children are exposed to in the classroom and how they are learning about sexual topics. This struggle over our kids’ hearts and minds has been raging across our nation, as recent events in Florida have shown. To provide clarity about the legality or illegality of exposing potentially obscene materials to minors, here is a brief primer on the Florida statutes currently in effect about obscene materials.

Florida’s obscenity laws are codified in Chapter 847 of the Florida Statutes. According to chapter — any material willfully disseminated to a minor (i.e. a person under the age of 18 years) that qualifies as obscene is illegal. The statute goes on to define ‘obscene’ material as fulfilling the following criteria:

  1. The average person, applying contemporary community standards, would find, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest;

  1. Depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct […]

  1. Taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.

We at Citizens Defending Freedom remain committed to ensuring these laws are respected and our children can have a wholesome and nourishing educational experience. Some have argued that our attitude toward library books that violate these statutes is equivalent to censorship or an assault on free speech, a retrograde attempt to ban books.

They claim that keeping children from explicit materials or topics that have traditionally been considered age-inappropriate is making children grow up to be narrow-minded or ill-equipped to deal with social issues.

This echoes arguments from a few years ago about ‘woke’ universities putting trigger warnings on books and trying to keep students from ‘harmful’ or offensive content. The key difference is that we are concerned in this case with minor children, sometimes as young as seven years old, not twenty-year old university students. We don’t believe any third grader will be enriched by reading about oral sex involving a child or exploring gender identity theory.

The field of child psychology yields important insights about the effects of exposure to explicit sexual content at a young age. Studies have shown correlations between pornography exposure in childhood and early adolescence and subsequent delinquency, risky adolescent sexual behavior, and substance abuse later in life, as well as various mental health issues. The effects of sexual trauma at an early age are far-spreading and devastating and should be taken extremely seriously. Every child has a right to grow up in a safe and nurturing educational environment. And parents have a right to decide whether their children are exposed to potentially traumatic and sometimes illegal material.

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