OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — The latest obscenity case to hit the law books may come as a surprise to observers in more liberal communities, because it was aimed at a statue, rather than at sexual content.
A grand jury in Johnson County, Kansas, ruled that “Accept or Reject,” a statue depicting a partially clothed young woman engaged in self-photography, is indeed “not obscene” — despite objections made by the American Family Association, which presented an 8,000-signature petition demanding removal of the statue from the Overland Park Arboretum, where it resides along a wooded walking trail.
The artwork is suggestive of “sexting” — the practice of sending sexually suggestive self-images via mobile device to a limited audience, such as when young lovers exchange candid photos shot with their Smartphones.
The grand jury “sat for one day and viewed the photographs of the statue [then] reviewed the Kansas law and found that the sculpture in question did not meet the legal definition of obscenity,” it stated in its report to the Johnson County District Attorney’s office.
Overland Park officials are reportedly pleased with the decision, but adult entertainment industry attorney JD Obenberger (www.xxxlaw.net) expressed dismay over the proceedings.
Posting his comments on the website of the local NBC affiliate station that covered the case, KSHB.com, Obenberger called the statue a “highly stylized work that suggests vanity and narcissism, self-adulation and self-worship — which is after all the root of all of the problems that’s plagued humanity from the start,” and as a result, possesses serious artistic value.
The noted attorney explained that the absence of “serious value” is one of three factors that prosecutors must prove to render any work obscene.
“No matter how prurient the appeal of the work, no matter how shockingly and patently the work offends contemporary community norms of what is permissible or accepted, if it possesses serious artistic value, it cannot be obscene,” Obenberger states. “Why? Because our Patriot forefathers correctly came to the judgment that all of society itself would become the victim if any expression that adds to the debate about the basic questions about humanity could be outlawed, criminalized, and taken out of society’s view.”
“That's a distinctively American value, what we invented, and what sets us apart from the rest of the world,” Obenberger added. “Remember, it was a Statue of Liberty out immigrant ancestors looked up to when they arrived in New York harbor, not a Statue of Decency.”
Obenberger offers an online obscenity law guide at http://www.xxxlaw.com/obscenity/index.html.