Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Violent Video Games

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case involving a California law, passed in 2005, prohibiting the sale or rental of violent games to anyone younger than 18. It defined such a game as one that includes "killing, maiming, dismembering or sexually assaulting an image of a human being" in a way that a reasonable person would find appeals to a "deviant or morbid interest," is patently offensive, and lacks "serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value for minors."

The Court recently struck down a law involving depictions of animal cruelty on the ground that it was overbroad. It intimated that a narrower law would be constitutional, but it suggested that the test for determining whether speech was unprotected was historical in character. That is, if it was not unprotected before, it will not be unprotected now.

I doubt that this historical approach will stand up. I suspect that a number of justices signed Chief Justice Roberts opinion for its results rather than for its selective exercise in history-worship. Perhaps we will find out next term. The violent video game case permits the Court to hold that our first amendment is hermetically sealed off from conceptions of public morality other than sexual morality. It would be fitting for this Court to so hold, fitting -- but perverse.

cross-posted at religiousleftlaw.com


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