By Patricia Nell Warren
Wildcat Press joins Planned Parenthood and 16 other principal plaintiffs in the ACLU lawsuit that challenges the constitutionality of the Telecommunications Bill. At issue are the bill's clauses regulating "indecency," free speech and diversity. The Telecommunications Bill is dangerously vague in its definition of "indecent" and "patently offensive."
The bill is being signed into law by President Clinton Feb. 8.
As a published author of 40 years' standing, I am opposed to the free-speech restrictions in this bill. Wildcat Press is my own personal publishing imprint.
I believe that the Congressional supporters of this "indecency" legislation, and the special-interest groups who have lobbied them, have a hidden agenda to advance the cause of total censorship in the United States.
I have several compelling reasons to challenge the bill.
Foremost is Wildcat's own Web page, where we promote and market our books. Excerpts from my best-selling novels "The Front Runner" and "Harlan's Race" are posted for anyone wanting to read them -- including persons under 18. If anyone who doesn't approve of my books files a complaint with the Justice Dept. that I am making "indecent" material available to minors online, then I and my company and my server are all liable under the new law. Paradoxically, any minor in the U.S. can buy my books in any bookstore.
I am also editor and consultant for YouthArts, a popular online youth zine. YouthArts is a creative and opinion forum for gay and lesbian youth, publishing their poetry, short fiction, fine art, essays, etc. Some of our publishees are under 18. These young people might be prosecuted by the Justice Department for their honest, heartfelt, sometimes frank but always artistically compelling statements.
Wildcat also uses email to do business online, to communicate with young YouthArts authors, and to distribute my syndicated column. All these aspects of our online communications create the threat that myself, my business partner, and my company might be held criminally liable under this new law.
We at Wildcat have decided to bare our claws and fight this deadly legislation because it also opens the doorway to imminent censorship of books, films, television, radio, etc. Contrary to claims made by the supporters of the Telco Bill, this new law is not really about "protecting children from pornography." Minors are already protected by existing laws.
Parents concerned about what their children are downloading can already buy software that will block any online sites they choose.
In the past, with human rights issues, I have stood up to be counted. In 1972 I helped win Susan Smith vs. Readers Digest, a landmark women's rights lawsuit. Today I am a member of the Authors Guild committee on free expression. Recently, I was instrumental in helping defeat a censorship bill in my home state, Montana.
I am confident -- indeed, I pray for America's sake -- that the courts will find the censorship portions of the Telecommunications Bill to be unconstitutional.