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Public Papers - 1991

Remarks to the Religious Alliance Against Pornography

1991-10-10

Let me welcome all of you to the White House. Good afternoon. And I'm pleased to see your Chairman, Dr. Jerry Kirk; His Eminence the Cardinal, Cardinal Bernardin, who is out in the forefront of this good work, the Archbishop of Chicago; Sarah Blankin, the chairperson of the National Women's Leadership Task Force; and Erv Duggan, FCC Commissioner. Welcome all to the White House.

It's a pleasure to take part in the alliance's national conference because we've all come here out of deep concern for one thing, and that is the well-being of our neighbors, our families, and particularly, I think, our children. Your group incorporates men and women of all faiths, all walks of life, and yet you stand united in your commitment to the dignity of human life, the integrity of the community, and our moral responsibility to our children. I believe that no matter who you are or where you live, we all want a better Nation, a better world for our children and grandchildren.

And most Americans feel very strongly that obscenity is not a part of that better world. It abuses, it degrades and insults both women and men. We've all heard the stories: Innocent children drawn into the world of pornography, victimized by crimes whose consequences are beyond imagination. This horror must stop.

Our administration is committed to the fullest prosecution of obscenity and child pornography crimes. And as I have stated before, and as I'm sure you will hear from my very able Acting Attorney General Bill Barr, who's doing a superb job, this will remain a priority. We've made tremendous progress at the Federal level, through such Federal initiatives as Project Postporn, in which we have virtually eliminated that horrible mail order obscenity business. Imagine, the indiscriminate mailing of hardcore pornography into American homes. And I know nobody in this room would want their children to have opened the mail the day that that kind of filth arrived.

In the last 6 months alone, the Department of Justice has obtained major indictments and convictions against some of the largest hardcore pornography producers and distributors in this country.

These successes would not have been possible without the leadership of the Department of Justice, and then the U.S. Attorneys in the cities like Dallas and Birmingham and Tallahassee and Concord, New Hampshire, and over here in Alexandria, Virginia, and the continued efforts of the Postal Inspection Service, the FBI, and the U.S. Customs Service.

Let me add, our prosecutors need more help in prosecuting sexual violence and child abuse cases. And that's why the administration's crime bill includes new provisions to protect women and children from violence and abuse.

Our crime bill is tough. We need a tough bill, our crime bill. It's the one we need. It's been there too long, and I want to see the Congress move on it and act on it and do, in this instance, what the American people want. In the next few weeks, the House, the House of Representatives, will consider what the Democratic leadership calls a crime bill. Sadly, rather than a call to arms in the war against crime, that bill, in the House I'm talking about now, maps out a retreat from current law. The bill handcuffs police and prosecutors in their efforts to fight crime instead of the criminals who commit the crimes.

And so, I really didn't want to miss this opportunity to come over here and ask you for your help in turning the crime bill around. Let your Representatives in Congress know, and know now, that it is time for a tough crime bill, one that cares about the victims of crime more than it does the criminals.

We also need something more, for the Federal system cannot stand alone. The legislative branch can pass strong laws, and the executive branch can present cases for prosecution in the courts. But the rest lies in the hands of decent men and women, and whether it's the jury members representing their community for a just society -- and by the way, we've piled up convictions because of juries standing on the side of community standards -- or it's as parents instilling values in our children. Time and again, so many things come down to family. And I firmly believe that we must do everything we can to support the American family. You know what I'm talking about. You just have an inner sense of what's right and wrong and that moral compass that delineates between what is tolerant and what is intolerable.

We all want, everyone wants I'm sure, a decent America. As de Tocqueville observed, ``America is great because she is good, and if America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.'' And without the commitment of religious and moral leaders like yourselves to preserve the good, America will fail to achieve the great.

So, let me leave you with this challenge, this exhortation: Please keep up the good fight. Please continue to educate Americans about the threat that obscenity and child pornography pose to our Nation. And together I am absolutely convinced that we can build a better world for these kids.

We're working this, as you know, in the international scene. One of the joys I take about what's happened as the Soviets now have come forward to accept many of our challenges in reducing nuclear weapons, one of the great joys I take is to think what this means to, in my case, our grandchildren, most of you all, children -- [Laughter] -- but it's a wonderfully exciting thing. But that's just part of the equation. So much of it relates to what happens right here at home. And that, of course, is where each and every one of you come in.

So, thank you for being here. I'm preaching to the choir, I know, but thank you very, very much. [Laughter] Thank you, and God bless you all.

Note: The President spoke at 2:16 p.m. in Room 450 of the Old Executive Office Building. In his remarks, he referred to Jerry Kirk, chairman of the Religious Alliance Against Pornography; Joseph Cardinal Bernardin of Chicago; Sarah Blankin, chairperson of the National Women's Leadership Task Force; Ervin Duggan, Commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission; and Acting Attorney General William Barr.

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