Screening of porn flick by students threatens college funding

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Washington, Apr 9 (ANI): A porn flick has been receiving stiff resistance from critics, who have said that universities should not be paying for the screening of such smut.

But the film's supporters have fought back saying that it does not fit the legal definition of obscenity, and that schools have a First Amendment right to show it.

The movie 'Pirates II: Stagnetti's Revenge' produced by Digital Playground has been airing on campuses is unrated, although Digital Playground has produced an R-rated version.

Colleges that have screened the film are the University of California-Davis, UCLA, Carnegie-Mellon, the University of Maryland and Northwestern University.

The screenings usually include discussions led by Planned Parenthood or professors on First Amendment rights and pornography.

But the University of Maryland's planned screening has infuriated one state lawmaker, who tried to pass legislation to withhold school funding for universities that don't develop policies that note "the serious social and health concerns associated with screening pornographic film."

Sen. Andrew Harris tried to attach his proposal April 8 to force the governing boards of the state's public universities to adopt policies on pornography before the schools receive any capital funds for the next fiscal year.

"The health problem with pornography is not birth control," Fox News quoted Harris as saying of Planned Parenthood's participation.

He noted that porn creates addicts, breaks up families and degrades men and women.

"Our taxpayers think it is a misuse of taxpayer funds," he stated.

Harris' effort did not survive a 35-12 vote favouring a ruling by state Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. that the amendment was out of order.

Harris offered his amendment despite a decision made by a panel of lawmakers Tuesday to require public colleges to submit policies concerning the screening of pornographic films by Sept. 1.

Legislators inserted the provision in the separate operating budget, but that provision does not include financial ramifications for failure to comply.

Robert Shibley, vice president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), said the movie doesn't rise to the level of obscenity and is therefore protected by free speech rights.

He added that it's not the place for the state to determine how student clubs use their funds.

"We're very concerned about the Maryland Legislature interfering, and here's the reason why," he said.

"I don't think there's any doubt that this movie is pornographic in nature but I think there is a very active question about whether this movie constitutes obscenity in any sense.

"I don't think this would be found to be obscene in the legal sense under the Miller v. California test because I do think this has artistic value.

"I am not comfortable with the government deciding what kind of art has value and what does not.

Using state money as a leverage is also a "red herring," he said, because state money is not being used to show the film.

"Student clubs are almost always funded through mandatory student fees ... The Supreme Court has ruled that those fees aren't actually funding for the schools" so "the university can't impose its viewpoint on how they spend those fees, neither can the student government," Shibley added. (ANI)

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