Reaffirming that obscenity was not protected by the First Amendment, the Supreme Court formulated a three-pronged test as a guide for determining what kinds of sexually explicit materials might be proscribed by the government.
Marvin Miller was prosecuted and convicted of a misdemeanor under California’s antiobscenity statute after he conducted a mailing campaign to advertise the sale of sexually explicit materials. When the Supreme Court accepted Miller’s petition for review, it also agreed to review a companion case, Paris Adult Theatre v. Slaton. After the landmark case of Roth v. United States
Although Chief Justice Warren E. Burger,
The most controversial prong of the Miller test has been its community standards approach. When a Georgia community attempted to bar the film Carnal Knowledge, the Court held, in Jenkins v. Georgia
In Miller’s companion case, Paris Adult Theatre v. Slaton, the Court upheld the conviction of an Atlanta theater owner for showing obscene films. Burger’s majority opinion included three general ideas. First, the constitutional right of privacy did not encompass any right to watch obscene movies in places of public accommodations. Second, the state had the authority to promote “a decent society” even if this meant restricting the free choices of consenting adults. Third, the legislature of Georgia could reasonably determine, without conclusive evidence, that “a connection does or might exist” between antisocial behavior and obscene material. In contrast, Justice William J. Brennan, Jr., joined by two other dissenters, argued that the concept of obscenity was so vague that, except in situations involving juveniles or nonconsenting adults, efforts to suppress it violated constitutional rights.
First Amendment balancing
Memoirs v. Massachusetts
Obscenity and pornography
Roth v. United States and Alberts v. California
Speech and press, freedom of