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The Commonwealth v Sharpless, 2 Serg & R. 91 (Sup. Ct. Penn. 1815) is cited 6 times in The Myth of Separation(Pornography case)
Major claims by Barton in his publications:
From The Myth of Separation, page 64-67, Barton writes:
This case will deal with "morality." Today's oft-repeated assertion that "Morality cannot be legislated!" was not accepted by our Founders. They believed that morality could be legislated and had found the Bible to be the perfect example of moral legislation. Evidently no one had told God He couldn't legislate morality--He had done so and in the opinion of our Founders, had done so quite successfully! Consequently, when the courts made decisions concerning moral values, they relied on Biblical guidelines.
The following cases illustrate how the courts upheld Congress' legislation of moral standards--standards based on the Bible. The indictment delivered by the grand jury in Commonwealth v. Sharpless describes the offense:
Here we have a classic description of a porno case, yet this one occurred in 1815! The defense claimed that this was not an indictable offense since it was only a "home viewing," and not a "public porno shop." The court, with Judge Duncan delivering the opinion, addressed these arguments, stating that many things occurring in private have a public effect and are therefore punishable:
The court, by referring to other laws not specifically related to this case, had noted that the law did not allow lascivious, lewd, or obscene publications--the types of publications that are widely distributed today. This is another example of moral legislation based on Biblical standards. In an act unusual for that period, a second Justice, Judge Yeates, also delivered a statement:
These rulings and opinions clash sharply with those of current courts who refuse to oppose such materials or even to take any stands that would involve having to define "morality." When objective standards for right and wrong are disallowed (i.e., the Bible), the. standards for morality become variable and individually determined. By refusing to sustain standards of morality, the courts have, by default, installed immorality as the acceptable and prevalent standard.
Legal analysis and writing by Lee Edwards, Esq.
Facts: Defendant was convicted in Pennsylvania for exhibiting a painting "representing a man in an obscene, impudent, and indecent posture with a woman." There was no statute in Pennsylvania against obscenity and Defendant appealed.
Issue: Was obscenity a common law crime in Pennsylvania?
Answer: Yes. Conviction affirmed.
Reasoning: The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania held that the Defendant's prosecution was not barred under either the federal of Pennsylvania constitution.
Comment: This case was decided before the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment. While it is doubtful that the defendant's prosecution would pass constitutional muster today, obscenity is still recognized as an exception to the protection of free speech.