George Bernard Shaw wrote, "All censorships exist to prevent anyone from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently, the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships." Eugene O'Neill put it more bluntly: "Censorship of anything, at any time, in any place, on whatever pretense, has always been and always will be the last cowardly resort of the boob and the bigot." On June 4, we were arrested in our home by four intrepid officers of the law, on order of Chicago Corporation Counsel John Melaniphy, for "publishing and distributing an obscene publication." The "obscene publication" turned out to be the June issue of Playboy and what the Corporation Counsel objected to, he said, was the picture story on film star Jayne Mansfield nude in bed and bubble bath in scenes for her latest contribution to cinematic art, Promises, Promises! We discussed the obscenity charge and arrest at length in the last installment of The Playboy Philosophy, because we believe this single example of censorship can add considerable insight into the real dangers of such police action in a free America. We hope to prove beyond any reasonable doubt, in this second installment on the subject, that a good deal more is involved here than nude photographs of Jayne Mansfield and that what we are faced with is a frightening example of church-state suppression of freedom of the press that strikes at the very heart of our democracy.
Irv Kupcinet expressed the feelings of many when he wrote, in his Chicago Sun-Times column: "The obvious question about the arrest of Playboy publisher Hugh Hefner on obscenity charges based on the Jayne Mansfield nudes in the June issue is: Why now? Playboy has been publishing nudes of voluptuous dishes for years." Why now? It is a very good question and in attempting to find the answer—in attempting to establish the real motivations behind the arrest—an insidious, twisted labyrinth of pious prejudice and prudery may be brought to light. It is virtually impossible to look deep within the human mind and find the sometimes complex motives that lie hidden behind a single act, unless your subject reclines willingly upon a psychoanalyst's couch. We have no analytical couch, and if we had, our adversaries in this little melodrama would surely decline to lie there. So instead of supplying suspected motives, we'll offer up not one, but a chain of events, and let the reader draw his own conclusions. First it must be mentioned that Playboy has never been adjudged obscene by any court in the land. In last month's editorial, we entered into an extensive examination of the recent Supreme Court and other high-court decisions on, and definitions of, obscenity. We successfully established, we think, that not by the wildest extensions of these definitions and decisions could be the June issue—or any issue—of Playboy be considered legally obscene. We went further, pointing out the extent to which Playboy meets contemporary community standards, as defined by the Supreme Court, and how the text and illustrations in this magazine are considerably more respectable than much of the material now available in a great many books, magazines and movies in our present-day society --and far less objectionable, by any objective standard, than material already declared not obscene by our courts. We went further still, pointing out that Chicago censors had approved scenes in a French film for exhibition that very month that were far bolder than the still photographs in Playboy. And pointing out, too, that similar (if less revealing) nude bed scenes (it was the photographs of Jayne in bed to which the Corporation Counsel took particular exception) were published at the same time in two other major magazines (Esquire and The Saturday Evening Post) with nary a Counsel criticism. And after all else was said and done, since similar photographs had appeared many times before in the pages of Playboy during our nearly ten years of publishing, with never so much as a discouraging word from the custodians of this fair city's morality—why now? What special, possibly pre-established perspective or prejudice set Playboy apart from the rest? And what prompted the action at this particular time?
Religious Freedom in Chicago
If the June pictorial on Jayne Mansfield is not so different from many that Playboy has printed before, what is different about the June issue—or perhaps one or more of the issues that immediately preceded it? Well, nothing really—except...! Except The Playboy Philosophy, this continuing editorial statement of our personal convictions and publishing credo, begun last December and carried in each issue since. These first installments have been primarily devoted to our concern over the separation of church and state in a free society and critical of organized religion's undue influence over portions of our government and law, thus emphasizing that true religious freedom means not only freedom of, but freedom from religion.
Chicago remains one of the few major cities in America that is dominated by a single religious denomination—that is, where a majority of the officials in power belong to one church and where their administrative decisions sometimes appear to be predicated more on religious dogma than civil law. We state this fact sadly, for it is also true that the present city administration is far and away the best that Chicago has had in many, many years.
In earlier installments of the Philosophy, we cited, and criticized, a number of specific instances in which, it seemed to us, Chicago officialdom had been less concerned with the importance of maintaining a separate church and state than they should have been. The Chicago Censor Board, made up of the wives of policemen, denied a license to the Italian film, The Miracle, on the grounds that it was "sacrilegious." (New York, another city that has a history of similar religious prejudice, did the same.) The Supreme Court declared this an unconstitutional basis for censorship, as it infringed upon religious freedom. In his decision in the Times Film Corp. vs. Chicago, Chief Justice Earl Warren stated, "Recently, Chicago refused to issue a permit for the exhibition of the motion picture Anatomy of a Murder...because it found the use of the words 'rape' and 'contraceptive' to be objectionable.... The New York censors forbade the discussion in films of pregnancy, venereal disease, eugenics, birth control, abortion, illegitimacy, prostitution, miscegenation and divorce. A member of the Chicago Censor Board explained that she rejected a film because 'it was immoral, corrupt, indecent, against my...religious principles.'"
Following the Supreme Court's decision, Chicago censors promptly rebanned The Miracle on the basis that it was "obscene." (Which supports our earlier observation that the charge of obscenity is often used to censor material that offends a particular group for reasons that have nothing to do with sex, from religion to racial equality.)
And it should be noted that the word "contraceptive," which Chicago censors wished to expunge from Otto Preminger's Anatomy of a Murder, can be considered offensive to only that specific religious minority that opposes birth control.
Birth control became a major issue in Chicago earlier this year, after millionaire philanthropist Arnold H. Maremont had accepted a position as chairman of the Illinois Public Aid Commission. Maremont announced that the IPAC had adopted a resolution to make birth control information and devices available to public-assistance recipients upon request and provided that the contraceptives were prescribed by a physician.
Maremont stated that the new IPAC program would accomplish the following worthwhile ends: (1.) "It will give the needy the same option of determining the sizing and spacing of their families that others in our society have." (2.) "It will curb the soaring numbers of illegitimate children we currently are closing our eyes to." (3.) "It will produce a multi-million-dollar annual savings for the taxpayers of this state."
Then the public furor began—with sides chosen along disturbingly, if predictably, religious lines. Prominent Catholics, including Chicago's Mayor Daley, denounced the plan as "immoral," because it would make the assistance available to the public-aid recipients who were not married and not living with their husbands. The day before the mayoral election, which Daley won handily, Republican candidate Benjamin S. Adamowski made a bid for the city's Catholic vote by filing an anti-birth-control suit against the IPAC in Superior Court. The IPAC would have customarily been defended by Illinois Attorney General William G. Clark, but Clark, a Catholic, announced that he, too, was opposed to the program. Clark stated that he considered the plan illegal and he advised the State Auditor not to sign and the State Treasurer not to honor warrants drawn to cover the costs of the birth-control program.
Maremont hired private legal counsel and vowed to carry the fight for approval of the Commission's program to the U.S. Supreme Court, if necessary. "This issue and all its ramifications will be aired before the highest tribunals of the land, if that is what it takes to permit us to move ahead with the program," he said.
"This Commission has every right to establish its policy, a policy which countless individuals and organizations support.... I have stated many times that this policy has been established with all the built-in safeguards that our conscientious and deeply concerned commissioners can provide."
Attorney Thomas C. McConnell, hired by the IPAC to defend it after Attorney General Clark sided with opponents of its program, charged in the court that Clark had "sold his client [the IPAC] down the river" by joining Adamowski in his suit. McConnell accused Clark of following "the dogmas of his own religion" and he requested a change of venue on the ground that Superior Court Judge John J. Lupe was prejudiced.
The Chicago Sun-Times reported, "Outside the court, Clark, a Roman Catholic, said: 'This is not a Catholic question, a Protestant question, or a Jewish question. All religions say that couples should marry before engaging in this type of conduct.' Clark repeated that he opposes the IPAC's program on grounds that it encourages illicit and immoral behavior...."
Clark neglected to mention that the "morality" aspect of the program was actually a smoke screen raised by some of its opponents and that most of the prominent Protestant and Jewish individuals and organizations that had been contacted, as well as those of no religious affiliation, favored the IPAC plan. The Illinois Council of Churches, representing 11 Protestant denominations, went on record as favoring the birth-control program for the public-aid recipients; the policy statement was adopted unanimously by the Council's legislative committee.
Ethel Parker, of the Independent Voters of Illinois, stated, in a letter to the Sun-Times: "The Independent Voters of Illinois at this time repeats its stand on using public funds to furnish birth-control information and supplies to women on relief. We are in favor of such a plan.
"Our contention is that preventing an increase of unwanted children is a policy of moral responsibility first and secondarily a prudent economic move.... So long as birth control is not forced on anyone whose religious views forbid it, IVI fails to see how religion enters into this controversy. It is also very naive for anyone to believe that the use of contraceptives promotes immorality. In our view their use merely prevents adding to social ills resulting from promiscuity."
In another letter, in the same issue of the Sun-Times, a Catholic reader insisted that the State Senate intervene, altering the IPAC program so that the contraceptives could be "prescribed only by a doctor for married women living with their husbands and only when their lives would be endangered by pregnancy." The reader also indicated that Governor Kerner should ask for Arnold Maremont's resignation.
Catholic Superior Judge Lupe refused to grant a change of venue, requested on the ground that he was prejudiced, and proceeded to rule against the IPAC in the Adamowski suit to halt the birth-control program. The State Senate then passed a measure drastically curtailing the Illinois Public Aid Commission's authority to help mothers under its care to avoid childbirth by use of contraceptives, and Senator W. Russell Arrington introduced a bill to abolish the IPAC. In a seemingly inconsistent move, the Senate confirmed Governor Kerner's reappointment of IPAC Chairman Maremount, but then—in an unprecedented move—it revoked the reappointment, because a number of the senators took exception to some of Maremont's public utterances regarding the Senate and IPAC aid. Financier Maremont was thus returned to the less fickle world of his private businesses and philanthropies, and Illinois lost the services of an exceptionally gifted public-spirited citizen.
The point in this controversy over birth control, as in the matter of censorship, is not the right of Catholics, or any other religious group, to hold and exercise whatever belief they choose. It is the undemocratic action of forcing their religious convictions on other citizens who do not share their views.