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Monday, 06 September 2004 15:00

Sex, Art & Politics Takes on John Ashcroft

September 7, 2004 New York City The Communications Decency Act (CDA) trial date has been set for October 27-29, 2004, at the United States District Court in New York City. Plaintiffs Barbara Nitke and the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom are contesting the remaining CDA provisions allowing "local community standards" to be used to define obscenity on the Internet. These provisions were not the subject of the 1997 Supreme Court challenge, ACLU vs. Ashcroft.

"The CDA allows one community to limit what the entire nation is allowed to discuss, to read or to view on the Internet," says John Wirenius, the attorney for the lawsuit. "That is unconstitutional because the First Amendment does not allow any one locality to impose its morality on the nation." For more information about the CDA lawsuit, go to: www.ncsfreedom.org.

Expert witnesses who will be called and cross-examined include Arthur C. Danto, A.D. Coleman, Jeffrey Douglas, Ben Laurie, Seth Finkelstein, Candida Royalle, Tristan Taormino, Charles Moser, Dov Hechtman, Leigha Fleming, and Susan Wright. Their testimony will cover the technological impossibility of complying with the CDA; the artistic and social importance of sexually explicit speech concerning alternative sexual practices; and the chilling affect the CDA has had on artists and writers within the communities served by NCSF.

Plaintiff Barbara Nitke (www.barbaranitke.com) will be making appearances in San Francisco in September for an exhibition of her work, slide show talks, book signings and benefits to raise funds for the CDA lawsuit expenses. Mark I. Chester and Dr. Carol Queen's Center for Sex and Culture are sponsoring "Sex, Art & Politics," the series of events on radical sex photography and artistic freedom to coincide with the Folsom Street Fair. For more information on these events, see the calendar below.

Barbara Nitke is president of the prestigious Camera Club of New York, on the faculty of the School of Visual Arts in New York, and author of a book of fine art photographs, Kiss of Fire (Kehrer Verlag 2003). National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF) is a national organization committed to protecting freedom of sexual expression among consenting adults.

For additional information, requests for interviews, and publishable press photos contact Susan Wright, Spokesperson for NCSF 917.848.6544, or Barbara Nitke at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Calendar of September Events in San Francisco with Barbara Nitke:

  • Sat. Sept. 18th - 8pm-midnight "Opening Party for Sex, Art & Politics" Radical sex photography including Barbara Nitke's loving SM photographs, book signing, and entertainment. Suggested donation $5- 10+. Mark I. Chester studio, 1229 Folsom St./SF
  • Sun Sept. 19th - 2-4pm - "A Romantic View of SM" Barbara Nitke's slide show talk and discussion of the CDA lawsuit. $15 for the general public. $5 for members of Janus and reciprocal leather organizations.
  • Sun Sept. 19th - 7-10pm - House party benefit for the CDA lawsuit sponsored by Mark I. Chester, Dr. Carol Queen and NCSF at a private location. 100% of proceeds will benefit the CDA lawsuit. Space is limited so please call 415-255-1155 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it for an invite.
  • Tues, Sept. 21st - 8-10pm - Book signing by Barbara Nitke for her book of loving SM photographs, Kiss of Fire. Good Vibrations, 603 Valencia St., at 17th St./SF
  • Wed, Sept. 22nd - 7-10pm "Sex, Art & Politics Community Benefit" Co- sponsored by Mark I. Chester and the Center for Sex and Culture, with Charles Gatewood, Fakir Musafar, Phyllis Christopher, Michael Blue/Midori and Shilo McCabe. Suggested donation $10-$20+ with proceeds benefiting the CDA lawsuit. SF Citadel, 245 8th St/SF
  • Sat/Sun, Sept 25/26th-noon-6pm - Mark I. Chester will take a FREE digital portrait of anyone who visits his studio to see the radical sex photographs on display. Sun. 9/26, the show will be open during the Folsom St. Fair. Mark I Chester studio, 1229 Folsom St./SF
For further information regarding the above events, please check the Calendar of Special Events on: http://mchester.best.vwh.net  or call Mark at 415-621-6294. Center for Sex and Culture (www.sexandculture.org)


September 7, 2004
Contact: Susan Wright, Spokesperson
National Coalition for Sexual Freedom

917.848.6544 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Please take a moment to support the Alternative Hedonistic Society, of Kansas City, MO (www.ahs-kc.org). Their AHS Obsessive Fetish Ball, which did not include nudity or sexual activities, was cancelled at the last moment by the Holiday Inn Olathe. A reporter from FOX News was tipped off and contacted the Holiday Inn. AHS was completely open about the nature of the event with both the police and the Holiday Inn prior to signing a contract, but the management responded to the reporter's inquiry by canceling the event. AHS is still trying to resolve this situation with the Holiday Inn Olathe and needs your help.

Please read NCSF's letter to the Holiday Inn Olathe, Kansas, then send the postcard attached below. Thank you for your help in fighting for our rights!

~~~

Steve Olson, President
Holiday Inn Olathe

Dear Mr. Olson,

We would like to express our serious concerns regarding your cancellation of the AHS Obsessive Fetish Ball one day before the event was to take place on August 13, 2004.

The National Coalition for Sexual Freedom is a national organization committed to creating a political, legal, and social environment in the United States that advances equal rights of consenting adults who practice forms of alternative sexual expression. NCSF is primarily focused on the rights of consenting adults in the SM- leather-fetish, swing, and polyamory communities, who often face discrimination because of their sexual expression. NCSF directly represents tens of thousands of consenting adults across the US, and supports the millions of adults who do alternative sexual expression.

In the view of the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF) your cancellation is based on a complete misunderstanding of the nature of this charitable, social event in which no nudity or sexual activities were scheduled to take place. The event organizers had ongoing discussions with the Olathe Police to ensure their complete compliance with city ordinances, and the organizers welcomed the police in walking through the event at any time.

In fact, it appears the sole reason your management canceled this contract was because a reporter from the socially conservative FOX News contacted you regarding the event. Perhaps you are not aware that religious political extremist groups regularly attack events held by the alternative sexuality communities. These groups often alert the media to pressure venues into refusing to hold adult events. This tactic is both discriminatory and reprehensible. NCSF expects businesses to abide by the terms of their lawful contracts and refuse to be manipulated in this manner.

Over 250 major events are produced by the SM-leather-fetish, swing and polyamory communities every year in hotels and public venues. In many cases, hundreds of thousands of dollars of revenue are generated for the host venue and local community. Your proactive response to resolving this issue of discrimination will go far in ensuring that our constituents continue to do business with Holiday Inn.

Sincerely,
Susan Wright
Spokesperson
NCSF

~~~

Please write a letter to the Holiday Inn Olathe protesting their unfair cancellation of the AHS Obsessive Fetish Ball. E-mail is fine, but fax or snail mail is even better. A postcard you can cut and paste follows. For those who don't live or travel to KC, you can write to the InterContinental Hotels Group, the franchiser of all Holiday Inns and say you won't stay in ANY Holiday Inn until this is resolved.

The letters should be sent to:

Holiday Inn Olathe
General Manager - Wayne Heinz
101 W. 151st St.
Olathe KS 66061

Fax (913) 829 8165
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


Leisure Hotel Group (Corporate Owner of Holiday Inn Olathe)
President and CEO - Steve Olson
4501 College Blvd Suite 275
Leawood, Kansas 66211

Fax (913)905-1461
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


InterContinental Hotels Group (Franchiser for all Holiday Inns)
3 Ravinia Drive, Suite 2900
Atlanta, Georgia 30346-2149

This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


Dear Holiday Inn Olathe,

I am writing to protest your cancellation of the AHS Obsessive Fetish Ball in August, 2004. The organizers of the ball made sure they would comply with state and local laws, yet without justifiable reason, you prevented this event from taking place.

The fact that you breeched your contract with AHS one day prior to the event caused many problems for the organizers and the attendees, some of whom flew in from other states to participate in this charitable event. You should reimburse not only the producers for the lost revenue, but also the individuals who were unfairly denied access to this event at the last moment.

I will certainly not stay at your hotel in the future, nor will I recommend your hotel to visitors or business associates.

Sincerely,
Your Name

May 26, 2005 - New York, NY - The obscenity case against Extreme Associates was dismissed by a Federal judge in Pittsburgh, PA, in January, 2005. But the battle isn't over yet: U. S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan has appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. NCSF and Barbara Nitke have joined the fight challenging the constitutionality of obscenity laws by filing an Amicus Brief in the appeal.

In his historic decision on Extreme Associates, U.S. District Court Judge Gary Lancaster ruled that obscenity laws are unconstitutional as applied to this prosecution based on the Supreme Court decision "Lawrence v. Texas" which abolished sodomy laws. "Lawrence v. Texas" said in effect that the government can no longer use "public morality" as a rationale for suppressing what adults may legally do in private.

The NCSF and Nitke Amicus Brief supports Judge Lancaster's opinion and makes the following points:

  1. The government cannot pick and choose which subjects of speech it wants to regulate and limit. Under this argument, the government should not be allowed to restrict SM pornography more strictly than vanilla pornography.
  2. Obscenity is judged by "local community standards" which cannot be applied on the internet because that means the most restrictive community in the U.S. could impose its view of obscenity on the entire internet.
  3. As a result of "Lawrence v. Texas" the government can no longer criminalize private "activities" such as consensual sodomy. Therefore, the government cannot be allowed to criminalize "speech" (words and images) regarding those activities. What justifies this attempt by the government to ban speech which discusses and describes activities which are now legal?

Read more information on the NCSF and Barbara Nitke Communications Decency Act lawsuit.

CANOGA PARK, Calif. – The Free Speech Coalition (FSC) today filed a complaint and motion in the United States District Court of Colorado seeking a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) enjoining enforcement of the recently re-issued federal record-keeping and labeling requirements, 18 U.S.C. § 2257, which are due to go into effect June 23, 2005.

The case is Free Speech Coalition v. Alberto Gonzales, # 05 CV 1126 WDM.

The lawsuit, which was filed on behalf of the membership of the Free Speech Coalition by attorneys representing three law firms - Colorado-based Schwartz & Goldberg PC, Sirkin, Pinales & Schwartz LLP of Ohio, and the Buffalo, N.Y.-based law firm of Lipsitz, Green, Fahringer, Roll, Salisbury & Cambria - contains over 20 separate claims on which basis FSC is asking the court to issue a Temporary Restraining Order.

The expectation of the attorneys is that the court will order a hearing on the motion for a TRO before the regulations are scheduled to go into effect, at which time plaintiff attorneys H. Louis Sirkin, Paul J. Cambria, Jr., and Michael W. Gross of Schwartz & Goldberg will present arguments why temporary injunctive relief prohibiting the enforcement of 18 U.S.C. § 2257 should be granted by the court.

The Free Speech Coalition is the trade organization of the adult entertainment industry. Its mission is to safeguard the industry from oppressive governmental regulation and to promote good business practices within the industry.

The Free Speech Coalition can be found at:www.freespeechcoalition.com

Monday, 04 July 2005 15:00

NCSF + FSC = Powerhouse!

July 5, 2005, The National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF) and the Free Speech Coalition (FSC) are pleased to announce their official partnership! As of July 1, 2005, two of the nation's leading organizations dedicated to the rights of consenting adults and free speech will team up to network, educate the public on overlapping issues, raise funding, and reach out to new members.

This announcement is being made on the heels of the Free Speech Coalition's filing a constitutional challenge to injunction against U.S.C. 18, Section 2257, a record-keeping and labeling law which is being expanded to include the Internet and has had a direct effect on leather, fetish, and swingers groups, their publications and outreach efforts, as well web sites and the wide variety of businesses that serve these communities.

Now, more than ever, it is critical for like-minded people to unify in the struggle for sexual freedom and expression!

Join FSC and NCSF and help us celebrate this new partnership with a toast and a much needed donation by going to www.ncsfreedom.org and www.freespeechcoalition.com

The National Coalition for Sexual Freedom is a national organization committed to creating a political, legal, and social environment in the United States that advances equal rights of consenting adults who practice forms of alternative sexual expression.

Free Speech Coalition is the trade organization of the adult entertainment industry. Its mission is to protect the free speech right of the industry and consumers from oppressive governmental regulation and to promote good business practices within the industry.

The Free Speech Coalition can be found at:www.freespeechcoalition.com

July 26, 2005 - New York, NY - A three judge panel has made a decision in the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom and acclaimed photographer Barbara Nitke's challenge against the Communications Decency Act (CDA) which criminalizes free speech on the Internet. According to the court, the plaintiffs presented "insufficient evidence" to support findings that the variation in community standards is substantial enough that protected speech is inhibited by the CDA.

According to the decision handed down by the Federal District Court for the Southern District of NY, in case #01 CIV 11476 (RMB): "The plaintiffs have offered evidence that there are at least 1.4 million Websites that mention "BDSM" (bondage, discipline, and sadomasochism)... The plaintiffs have submitted images and written works that represent material posted to a small number of Websites, that they contend may be considered obscene in some communities but not in others. These examples provide us with an insufficient basis upon which to make a finding as to the total amount of speech that is protected in some communities but that is prohibited by the CDA because it is obscene in other communities."

The court agreed that NCSF members and Barbara Nitke are genuinely at risk of prosecution under the CDA and that their speech has in fact been inhibited. According to the decision: "Nitke's fear that the CDA will be enforced against her is actual and well-founded. She has submitted objective evidence to substantiate the claim that she has been deterred from exercising her free-speech rights, and this fear is based on a reasonable interpretation of the CDA... NCSF has submitted objective evidence that one of its member organizations, TES, has been deterred from exercising its free-speech rights and that this deterrence is based on a well- founded fear that the CDA would be enforced against it."

John Wirenius, attorney for the plaintiffs, says, "We are disappointed that the court did not act on the uncontradicted evidence we presented that artists and citizens who are sexual minorities are disproportionately censored by the Government's ability to pick its own forum and standard for obscenity cases. The government brings obscenity cases where it knows it can get convictions."

"I am appalled by this decision," says co-plaintiff Barbara Nitke, a fine art photographer who explores sexual relationships in her work. "It is vitally important to keep the Internet free for education, the arts and open discussion on sexual topics. This law is a form of unfair censorship that must be stopped. I am absolutely going to appeal this."

NCSF challenged against the CDA law because personal websites and chat groups that include discussions and images of SM, swinging or polyamory are at risk of prosecution. Membership groups that maintain educational websites about adult sexuality are also at risk.

Under the Bush administration, nearly 40 prosecutors, as well as investigators and FBI agents are spending millions of dollars to bring anti-obscenity cases to courthouses across the country for the first time in 10 years. Obscenity is judged by "local community standards," which means that a religious political extremist in the Midwest can claim that a website from San Francisco is obscene and therefore illegal.

NCSF is dedicated to proactively challenging the rise in obscenity and pornography prosecutions, including filing an Amicus Briefs in support of Extreme Associates, and supporting the Free Speech Coalition's injunction filed against the expanded record-keeping provisions of 18 U.S.C. B' 2257.

To contribute to the expenses of the CDA lawsuit, go to: www.ncsfreedom.org/donations.htm Every dollar goes directly to ensuring free speech on the Internet.

August 22, 2005 - New York, NY - Barbara Nitke and the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom have filed a notice of appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court of the District Court's decision in the Communications Decency Act (CDA) challenge. Their appeal contends the District Court applied an incorrect legal standard for determining whether protected material was improperly banned under the CDA. The District Court also committed legal error in finding that many local communities do not have pre-determined standards of obscenity that can be verified--and then ruling the plaintiffs failed to prove what those standards are.

NCSF members and Barbara Nitke have been found by the Court to be genuinely at risk of prosecution under the CDA and their speech has been inhibited according to the decision handed down by the Federal District Court for the Southern District of NY, case #01 CIV 11476 (RMB). However, the three judge panel stated that the over 1,000 images and text by 150+ artists and website owners presented by the plaintiffs was "insufficient evidence" to prove that the variation in community standards is substantial enough that protected speech is inhibited by the CDA.

"As an artist, I can only do my work in a free society and that's what this challenge is about," says co-plaintiff Barbara Nitke, a fine art photographer who explores sexual relationships in her work. "We're fighting for the continued right of American artists to do their work and share it with others on the Internet."

"NCSF is concerned about this ruling because the court agrees that websites that deal with alternative sexuality are at risk of prosecution," says Susan Wright, NCSF Spokesperson. "Websites and chat groups that include discussions and images of SM, swinging and polyamory, and membership groups that maintain educational websites about adult sexuality are at risk."

The CDA contains provisions that ban speech and images from the Internet that any local community in the U.S. could deem obscene, even though that speech would be fully protected elsewhere. The CDA also contains a provision that states that it's illegal to put any obscene material on the web in such a way that minors can access it. However since the Internet can be accessed by anyone with a computer, anything on the web can be accessed by a minor as previously held by the Supreme Court in Reno v. ACLU. NCSF and Nitke maintain that adults have the right to post sexually explicit material on the Internet for other adults to view.

NCSF is dedicated to proactively challenging the rise in obscenity and pornography prosecutions, including filing an Amicus Briefs in support of Extreme Associates, and supporting the Free Speech Coalition's injunction filed against the expanded record-keeping provisions of 18 U.S.C. B' 2257.

To contribute to the expenses of the CDA lawsuit, go to: www.ncsfreedom.org/donations.htm Every dollar goes directly to ensuring free speech on the Internet.

March 3, 2006 - In documents filed with the U.S. Supreme Court, the U.S. Justice Department did not contest NCSF's assertion that NCSF's Communications Decency Act challenge is properly before the Supreme Court on direct appeal. That is a big step forward because that means both sides agree that the Supreme Court should rule on the merits of NCSF and Barbara Nitke's case, and not on any procedural grounds.

The government requested that the Supreme Court affirm the lower court decision against Nitke vs. Gonzales, arguing that the case should move forward with only a limited briefing without argument. NCSF filed a response this week contending that the Supreme Court should order a full briefing and oral argument to hear all the facts in this important First Amendment lawsuit.

Now is the time to support NCSF! NCSF needs funds to continue providing operating support for the CDA lawsuit, commenced in 2001 and now finally before the U.S. Supreme Court. Donations also fund our constituency services: NCSF's Incident Response program helps over 700 people a year, and the weekly Media Updates alert subscribers about news articles dealing with SM, polyamory and swinging.

Full text of the governments Motion to Affirm and NCSF's reply can be found under our CDA coverage area.

Please urge your group to hold a fundraiser for NCSF. You can also mail a personal donation or log onto the NCSF website to donate: Donations NCSF appreciates your support!


NCSF is dedicated to proactively challenging the rise in obscenity and pornography prosecutions, including filing an Amicus Briefs in support of Extreme Associates, and supporting the Free Speech Coalition's injunction filed against the expanded record-keeping provisions of 18 U.S.C. B' 2257.


A project of NCSF and the NCSF Foundation


The National Coalition for Sexual Freedom is a national organization committed to creating a political, legal, and social environment in the United States that advances equal rights of consenting adults who practice forms of alternative sexual expression. NCSF is primarily focused on the rights of consenting adults in the SM-leather-fetish, swing, and polyamory communities, who often face discrimination because of their sexual expression.


National Coalition for Sexual Freedom

822 Guilford Avenue, Box 127

Baltimore, MD 21202-3707

410-539-4824

This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

www.ncsfreedom.org

 
March 20, 2006 - Washington D.C. Today the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the Federal District Court's decision in Barbara Nitke and NCSF v. Alberto Gonzales, the challenge to the Communications Decency Act, #01 CIV 11476 (RMB). The Supreme Court has affirmed the lower court's decision without hearing oral arguments, sending a clear signal that the court will not protect free speech rights when it comes to sexually explicit materials.
 
The NCSF and Nitke lawsuit was successful in weakening the Miller standard of judging obscenity: the District Court for the Southern District of NY made a factual finding that the SLAPS prong of Miller does not provide protection against prosecution as it was intended to do. The Miller decision (1973) stated that materials were constitutionally protected if the work, taken as a whole, has "serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value." However the District court accepted evidence from NCSF and Nitke that prosecutors and juries in more restrictive communities are less likely to extend protection to artistic and literary materials that are outside the mainstream of traditional sexuality.
 
"We have proven that Miller does not work," says Susan Wright, Spokesperson for NCSF. "But the Supreme Court has declined to strike it down at this time. That means every website on the Internet can be judged by the most repressive local community standards in the U.S."
 
The Supreme Court decision shows the importance of supporting NCSF, one of the few organizations proactively fighting obscenity laws. The CDA makes it a crime to post obscenity on the Internet because those materials may be viewed by children. NCSF and Nitke believe that adults should have the right to post and view sexually explicit materials involving consenting adults on the Internet.
 
"We knew that the Bush administration was laying its plans to prosecute sexually explicit material on the Internet," says John Wirenius, attorney for the plaintiffs. "By filing our lawsuit in 2001, we may have slowed the Justice Department from prosecuting obscenity in 2002-3, but the number of obscenity prosecutions has steadily increased ever since. We believe in fighting this battle and we took our fight all the way to the Supreme Court."
 
"I think we've achieved a great victory in drawing attention to how politicized our judicial system has become," says co-plaintiff Barbara Nitke, a fine art photographer who explores sexual relationships in her work. "Our obscenity laws are outmoded, especially in conjunction with the Internet. We've made a huge dent in how obscenity will be judged in the future, and I hope others will now stand up and continue to fight against repressive laws like this."
 
NCSF and Barbara Nitke would like to thank everyone who contributed to fund this important lawsuit, as well as the many dedicated witnesses and lawyers who assisted in bringing this case to court. In particular, NCSF and Nitke thank John Wirenius for his outstanding efforts in this case and his dedication to First Amendment rights. NCSF intends to continue the fight against obscenity laws in the U.S.
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