Minors and the First Amendment: Replies to Marjorie Heins

Minors and the First Amendment: Replies to Marjorie Heins

Marjorie heins has written an intelligent but predictable polemic in favor of “free expression” for those she variously calls “youngsters,” (this excludes “little ones” though how little we are not told), “older minors” and, of course, “teenagers” though her argument in favor of nigh-unlimited access to any and all materials through any and all media extends to the “youngster/older minor” category as well (“Rejuvenating Free Expression,” Dissent, Summer 1999). We know this is a polemic because those who oppose her views “fulminate” rather than argue, so I suppose what I am about to argue will be taken by Heins as yet another fulmination. Here goes anyway.

Heins scorns “paternalism” and “protectionism.” These, for her, include any and all attempts to limit access by children to certain sorts of materials. “Youngsters,” Heins declares, are “citizens” with First Amendment rights rather than “fragile creatures in need of protection. . . .” But this doesn’t tell us much, for Heins casts her net so widely it becomes unclear whether she would ever favor any attempt by concerned political, social, civil, or parental bodies to block, inhibit, or prohibit particular images or words. Are any and all such efforts to come under her generic term of opprobrium—“censorship”? Presumably so.

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Lima