Supreme Court's Indecency Rulings Sends Mixed Message

Supreme Court's Indecency Rulings Sends Mixed Message

As a dad of four kids, it’s getting more and more difficult to let them watch sporting events or music shows on broadcast television without fear that they – and my wife and me – will be assaulted by people using vulgar words or actually exposing themselves.

We all remember with horror Janet Jackson exposing herself during the 2004 Super Bowl Half Time show. Various music awards shows and other broadcast TV programs have featured famous performers dropping “F” bombs and other obscenities. This is all part of the moral and spiritual breakdown in the United States that I write about in Implosion: Can America Recover From Its Economic & Spiritual Challenges In Time? 

In that context, the U.S. Supreme Court today issued an important ruling in Federal Communications Commission v. Fox Television Stations, Inc. While the decision was unanimous, it sent a morally mixed message. On the one hand, the Court ruled that TV broadcasters involved in the suit don’t have to pay the government enormous fines for allowing “F” words and partial nudity on past programs. That’s a mistake in my view. It could send the message to other TV broadcast networks that allowing such indecent moments won’t really be penalized, and could open the floodgates to more indecency on the airwaves.

However, the Court didn’t actually rule on whether the federal government is constitutionally permitted to impose decency standards on the public airwaves. Incredibly, both Fox and ABC wanted the Court to set broadcasters free from all limits and allow them to air whatever obscenities, nudity and other indecencies it wanted. Fortunately, the Court did not go that far — at least not yet.

But looking more broadly, it’s clear something has gone terribly wrong with the American experiment. Our moral fabric is tearing. Our families are imploding. Our national debt is exploding. Experts on the left and the right warn we are on an unsustainable trajectory and urgently need to change course. Yet too many in Washington, academia, the media and even the church are in a “business as usual” mode. As a result, millions of Americas fear the ice is cracking under our feet.

We are experiencing an epic failure at nearly every level of American society. The good news is that twice in our history we’ve seen dramatic revivals in America. In the early 1700s, America experienced what historians call the “Great Awakening.” In the early 1800s, we experienced a “Second Great Awakening.” Millions of Americans awoke from their moral and spiritual slumber and turned to a sincere and personal faith in Jesus Christ. They studied the Bible voraciously and obeyed God’s commands. They returned to church, and planted new churches, sharing the Gospel with their family and friends.

They also turned their faith into action. They founded elementary schools for girls and boys. They established colleges dedicated to teaching the Scriptures and the sciences. They led social campaigns to persuade Americans to stop drinking so much alcohol and to abolish the evil of slavery. They didn’t expect the government to take care of all their needs; they believed it was the Church’s job to show the love of Christ to their neighbors in real and practical ways. They were right, and they helped get America back on the right track. 

It’s time to do it again. We need leaders to make bold reforms to solve our moral and economic crises. We need legislators and judges who will pass and uphold laws that protect our children from damaging content on the airwaves. But we also need to turn back to God and beseech Him for a Third Great Awakening before it’s too late.

Joel C. Rosenberg is a New York Times best-selling author with more than 2.5 million copies in print. His new book, Implosion: Can America Recover From Its Economic & Spiritual Challenges In Time?, is published by Tyndale House Publishers.