Federal Communications Law Journal

Document Type

Book Review

Publication Date


Publication Citation

54 Federal Communications Law Journal 591 (2002)


Book Review: Not In Front of the Children, “Indecency,” Censorship, and the Innocence of Youth, Marjorie Heins, New York: Hill and Wang, 2001, 402 pages.

Marjorie Heins spent much of her career as a lawyer battling censorship with the American Civil Liberties Union. Today, she continues the fight as Director of the Free Expression Policy Project of the National Coalition Against Censorship. In an effort to understand the people who work to constrict the free flow of information, she stepped out of the trenches and into the library to do some research. Not In Front of the Children is the result. In it, Heins analyzes what she argues are the unexamined assumptions that support one of the most powerful weapons in the arsenal of censors: the claim that certain kinds of information must be banned to protect children from harm. Despite its venerable past, Heins challenges the logic and utility of the "harmful to minors" censorship standard. Though she acknowledges the state's legitimate responsibility to protect the physical and psychological well-being of its youngest citizens, Heins contends that now, as in the past, little evidence can be marshaled to support the assumption that indecent, violent, or other proscribed material harm children in any significant way. Consequently, she concludes that the costs of censorship in the name of child protection far outweigh any demonstrable benefits, and it must therefore be abandoned.