Today, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, through its Institute for Public Affairs, called upon the U.S. Senate to explore and enact new legislative efforts to address the increasing number of violent and pornographic internet sites. The nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization made this appeal to the Senate in connection with a Judiciary Committee hearing devoted to this topic.
Nathan Diament, director of the Union’s Institute, issued the following
As American society hurtles to the end of its millennium and the Jewish community marks the beginning of a new year, it is time for us, as a society, to step back and assess, among other things, our moral environment. And today, such assessment must include a look at the role of the internet in shaping our moral environment.
Each day, more and more people visit the internet and each day, more and more websites for them to visit are created. The internet is in our homes and just a “click away.” This is both wonderful and frightening. It is wonderful because it presents an unprecedented opportunity for learning and teaching. The Orthodox Union is proud to harness this modern technology in the service of our ancient tradition and be the host of a premiere Jewish content website – www.ou.org. But we are deeply concerned about the fact that this very same technology allows deeply violent, hateful and pornographic messages to flow unfiltered into every home, library and school with a computer.
We do not question the fact that U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment protects a significant portion of those websites that we find morally objectionable and the government may not censor these protected messages. But we also believe that it is Congress’ power to regulate these sites within constitutional limits, and to provide incentives for internet service providers – private entities not bound by the First Amendment – to perform their civic responsibilities to keep our moral environment clean. Congress must prevent children from accessing websites that spew hate and obscenity. Congress must provide incentives to internet service providers to reduce the overflowing tide of violent and pornographic websites. We believe such measures are necessary, reasonable and constitutional.
The Jewish New Year’s call of the shofar, the ram’s horn, calls to us to repair our society’s moral fabric. We must hear that call, and include the moral state of our virtual society’s moral fabric as well.