Denver archbishop says Supreme Court is wrong on video game violence [CNA]

Denver, Colo., Jul 2, 2011 / 02:33 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Denver Archbishop Charles J. Chaput says a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision on video game violence is “wrong,” and will contribute to “poisoning our future.”

In a July 1 column for First Things, Archbishop Chaput wrote that the court’s June 27 ruling “extends and elevates the individual’s right to free expression – or in this case, a corporation’s right to make a healthy profit - at the expense of family sovereignty, the natural rights of parents and the intent of the Constitution’s authors.”

The decision in the case of “Brown vs. EMA” struck down a California law that banned minors from buying or renting violent video games.

Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the majority, said violent video games deserve First Amendment protection just like books, plays and movies. He wrote that video games should not be included in categories of expression that are excluded from First Amendment protection – namely, obscenity, incitement and fighting words.

But Archbishop Chaput said the ruling overlooked the government’s duty to protect human dignity and the common good. “A law which respects mothers and fathers trying to make good choices for their family does just that,” he wrote.

Archbishop Chaput clarified that he does not believe video games are “bad.” But to allow minors access to violent video games without parental consent, he said, violates natural law and parents’ rights.

Justices Ginsburg, Kagan, Kennedy and Sotamayor joined Scalia in finding California’s law unconstitutional. Justice Alito and Chief Justice Roberts supported the majority opinion, but argued in a differing opinion that violent video games may cause significant social problems because they have a different impact on youth than radio, television or literature.

Archbishop Chaput acknowledged that the court’s affirmation of what lawmakers can and cannot ban is important, in light of some religious teaching being labeled hate speech because of the recent push for gay “marriage.”

But he said the court acted prematurely in its decision to strike down the law, and made “a serious mistake in too quickly lumping violent video games under the same protections given Grimm’s Fairy Tales or network TV.”

The archbishop argued that the California law protected parental authority and minors because it “did not preclude parents from buying or renting violent video games for their minor children – if they chose to do so as parents.”

He called attention to Justice Clarence Thomas’ minority opinion, which held that the Constitution’s intended definition of free speech does not include a right of minors to access speech without parental or guardian consent. Justice Thomas indicated in his dissent that the Founding Fathers supported parents’ complete authority to direct the development of their minor children.

“Video games can simulate, and potentially stimulate, violence in a far more intensely immersive way than traditional media,” Archbishop Chaput noted, citing the opinion of a former army officer and author who once called violent video games “murder simulators.”

The Archbishop of Denver said that Colorado’s 1999 Columbine High School shooting is “indirect but brutally real proof” of his point. He was Archbishop of Denver when the shootings occurred, and said he still remembers visiting with families of victims and “trying to make sense of the violence to the wider community.”

Archbishop Chaput addressed a special session of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation two weeks after the 1999 shootings, saying the violence found in video games has a direct impact on youth and is among the roots of real-life violence.

“Common sense tells us that the violence of our music, our video games, our films, and our television has to go somewhere,” he said at the 1999 session. “It goes straight into the hearts of our children to bear fruit in ways we can’t imagine – until something like (the Columbine shootings) happens.”

Full article…

I don’t think the Bishop has ever even played a video game. Video game violence won’t contribute to the poisoning of our youth, mainly because it’s just a form of entertainment and the average gamer is in his 30’s, so most of them are adults already.

As for parental choices and such, if the parent doesn’t want his/her kid to play violent video games, don’t allow it. Simple as that

I think most people who rant and rave about how video games promote violence have never played a video game.

In my country (Canada) at least, it’s already illegal to sell M-rated (and above) games to minors. I’m an adult, and I’m still carded every time I go into GameStop to purchase a game that carries an “M” rating (except at the one store where they know me 'cause I go there a lot). I didn’t think this was any different in the U.S., but maybe it varies by state?

Bottom line: I think parents need to realize that the government isn’t going to do their parenting for them. If they don’t want their kids to access violent media, there are ways to ensure they don’t, like going into the store with them and helping them choose a game that’s more appropriate.

It’s a struggle for parents to do this of course. And I agree that it needs to be done. But I also think the Bishop is saying that parents need help. In this case, a big question for me is what forms of speech were actually intended for protection by the 1st Amendment? I doubt the framers of the US Constitution envisioned protection of porno or the selling of violent video games to minors. I do think they were trying to protect non-violent political criticism of public officials.

I watched an old western today with Jimmy Stewart…“Who shot Liberty Valence?”…the dialogue went something like this…In American the people are the boss…when bigshots in Washington don’t do what we want, we vote them out.

Press freedom guaranteed by the 1st Amendment keeps us informed so that we can do our job as voters.

As for parental choices and such, if the parent doesn’t want his/her kid to play violent video games, don’t allow it. Simple as that.

If they don’t want their kids to access violent media, there are ways to ensure they don’t, like going into the store with them and helping them choose a game that’s more appropriate.

No one gains with censorship. If one as conservative as Justice Scalia says that games deserve 1st Amendment protection, that’s a powerful statement worth heeding.

There are also conservatives who think the decision to censor or not properly belongs with state and local elected officials. If we voters like restrictions of porno or violent video games in our particular jurisdictions we re-elect people who’ll do that. If we don’t, we don’t. It’s better than some SC justice telling us we have absolutely no say over the local moral climate…and even worse…that the 1st Amendment prevents us from having that say.

The good Archbishop can kindly keep out of affairs of which he knows nothing about. I’ve played games with obscene amounts of violence and have been completely fine five minutes, and a year, later. I’ve also played games with violence that isn’t bloody in the least. I’ve seen games with drugs and alcohol, and have myself never done either.

The evidence against video games having any adverse effect on us teenagers is so astoundingly strong and prevalent, that it goes without saying. The only people who are influenced negatively by video games are those who had a few screws loose to begin with; they hardly degrade family unity. Our parents want family unity so bad, they can JOIN US :smiley: We shall show them the light of video gaming. :heaven:

My gripe isn’t with what is in the games specifically, but with the very notion of censorship, which I find abhorrent.

If a parent doesn’t want their kid to play a particular game, then they ought to not let them play it. That is a rightful duty of a parent, and can be exercised with anything children are exposed to. I don’t like outsiders deciding to impose censorship.

That’s fair enough, and I would agree; parents are perfectly able to regulate what their own kids do without the government needing to get involved. If you NEED the government to come in and impose censorship FOR you, then we have ourselves an issue of competence. Also, my post wasn’t addressed specifically to you; I apologize if it came across that way. I was simply putting out my own :twocents:.

That’s basically the restriction that was struck down. One of the dissenting opinions objected to the law, but based on the vagueness of the law’s restriction on “violent games”

Bottom line: I think parents need to realize that the government isn’t going to do their parenting for them. If they don’t want their kids to access violent media, there are ways to ensure they don’t, like going into the store with them and helping them choose a game that’s more appropriate.

So why not require parents to be present for the purchase of violent games? Young people these days do have a certain degree of freedom. Most parents do give their children an allowance, and it’s not as if children are totally dependent on their parents for transportation.

It’s not restricting the production of such video games. It’s just preventing underage persons from acquiring sensitive material that could in fact have an influence on their development.

don’t some of these more violent games also have sexual content?

I never said it was.

EDIT: Also, I might add, I was playing Doom (a first-person shooter from forever ago) when I was 5. I turned out just fine. I didn’t play to watch the 16-bit blood cover the enemies as I shot them, I played to get through the level. The guy with the fireballs always did scare the pants off of me, and that’s right where I died every time…

Some do, but 1: they warn you of it up front, and 2: an extremely inappropriate game (such as Duke Nukem Forever) is actually a turnoff to players. We play games as a pastime to enjoy ourselves with gameplay, story and a challenge, not to revel in violence, debauchery and sexual unrestraint.

What Shiranui said, basically.

I recently played both Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2, not only are they awesome games (both story and gameplay wise) but unlike what Fox News has said, there aren’t “fully interactive” sex scenes, and sexual content is optional, that said, I wouldn’t let my (hypothetical) kids play either game because they do contain material that even I find disturbing at times, but compared to the other games I’ve played, ME and ME 2 are light on the gore and sex.

I think that anyone interested in this topic should watch the video series “Extra Credits” which looks at how games impact society from the perspective of people who actually work in the industry:

I would recommend the episodes “Enriching Lives” (which specifically discusses Mass Effect 2), “Facing Controversy” and “Sex in Games”, even “An Open Letter to EA Marketing” (the show’s creators are NOT impressed with the way EA’s marketing team has been promoting their games recently, at all).

I agree with the good Archbishop. Can a bad tree bear good fruit? No, it cannot.

And you have the ability to discourage that in the voting booth. It comes down to what is actually protected by the 1st Amendment and what isn’t. I’m sure that you would agree that there are limits to what can be sold to minors. I don’t think the framers were trying to protect the ability of anyone to expose minors to anything and everything under the sun. This ruling hampers the ability of local elected officials to place reasonable restrictions on content intended for minors.

How are video games a “bad tree,” if I may ask? Video games actually indirectly led me to discovering Christ (that’s a VERY long story, BTW) so I would respectfully ask that you not be so judgemental of a diverse form of entertainment with very diverse content, ranging from Sesame Street to WW2-based games.

I don’t think that the archbishop makes a well thought out legal argument on this one. If he does not like violent video games, that is one thing. But to say that the high court is wrong in their constitutional opinion is quite another.

The good bishop is not saying all video games are evil, but pointlessly violent games can indeed be validly compared to pornography. Pornography appeals to lust, violence to wrath. Not every instance of violence in video games is necessarily an instance of wrath, just as a kissing in a movie does not necessarily induce lust in the audience.

I would strongly encourage everyone still following this thread to read his Excellency’s full remarks rather than the excepts in the article:

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