This testimony will discuss the implications of the First Amendment for proposals to rate video games and other entertainment for violent content, and to restrict the sale of such materials to minors.

Unlike obscenity, the Supreme Court has never carved out an exception in First Amendment analysis for violent speech and images. This is true even where minors are concerned. The Court has instead affirmed that violent content is protected by the First Amendment, regardless of its social worth, because “the line between the transmission of ideas and mere entertainment is much too elusive for this Court to draw.”

An exception in First Amendment jurisprudence for violence would threaten a wide range of artistic and political expression. Graphic depictions of violence can be found in the Bible and much classic literature, film, art and theater. It is impossible to distinguish rationally between “acceptable” and “unacceptable” forms of violent speech, imagery or entertainment, as the judgment is inherently subjective. The Constitution accordingly allows each of us to make our own decisions about such content, and parents to set their own guidelines for their minor children, and restricts the role of government in controlling these choices.

The opinions expressed in this testimony do not necessarily represent the views of each of the NCAC participating organizations.

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