Does Anyone on the U.S. Supreme Court have Kids?

Does anyone on the U.S. Supreme Court have kids? How about grandkids, nieces, nephews, even neighbors with kids? I wonder.

In it’s final decision before adjourning for summer break the court struck down a California law intended to protect children from playing with video games that depict murder, maiming, rape and other forms of violence. In a gross perversion of First Amendment jurisprudence, one that probably has the Founding Fathers—all of whom were parents, reeling in their graves, a 7 to 2 majority said that the games are protected speech and can be freely sold to minors.

These are just a few of the games our Highest Court says our kids can have. “Manhunt 2,” which features a display of dismembered bodies and awards points to the player who can mutilate his victim most grotesquely; “Ethnic Cleansing,” in which the player selects a specific minority group then proceeds to gun down members of that race. “RapeLay,” in which the objective is to rape a mother and her daughters.

Writing for the majority Chief Justice Antonin Scalia a conservative Reagan era appointee said that the state’s “legitimate power to protect children from harm does not include “a free-floating power to restrict the ideas to which children may be exposed.”

In his opinion he mentioned Grimm’s fairy tales and Hansel and Gretel thus indicating that in the court’s eyes, today’s games are merely a digital extension of this tradition.

Is Judge Scalia off his rocker and what about the six other justices who concurred?

As a Mom of tween and teenaged boys, I’ve seen these games and they are horrible, even beyond horrible. Last summer, my sons got hold of GTA, Grand Auto Theft—one of the games the Court now protects. GTA is about crime, auto theft, prostitution and murder The soundtrack is a string of obscenities set to a rap beat.

Other than keeping my boys busy, by turning them into zombies (not a state I like to see my children or anyone else’s enter) I hated GTA. One afternoon, I got up my nerve and confiscated the game unleashing a tsunami of anger in my sons akin to the reaction one might get from addicts who are denied their fix. Lets face it, that is what I was doing. These games are drugs of a kind, highly addictive or “immersive,” in euphemistic gamer speak.

Research endorsed by the American Psychiatric Association indicates that these games lead to “an increase in aggressive behavior, physiological desensitization to violence, and decrease [in] pro-social behavior,”

Last year Craig Anderson, director of Iowa State University’s Center for the Study of Violence, authored a paper pointing to clear and convincing evidence that “media violence is one of the causal factors of real-life violence and aggression.”

So why did the Court strike down a law aimed at combating this scourge. According to the law’s author California Senator Leland Yee, who is by the way the senate’s only licensed child psychologist the reason was greed. According to Senator Yee, the Court has “once again put the interests of corporate America before the interests of our children.”

The impact of this decision will extend beyond California. The 11 other states—Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Texas, and Virginia—that submitted amicus briefs will find their options to restrict these games will be severely limited.

As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton herself a prominent opponent of these games, has famously said, “it takes a village to raise a child.” but that village has be aligned with that child’s best interests.

Right now thanks to the Supreme Court, the United States of America is not that village.

18 comments on “Does Anyone on the U.S. Supreme Court have Kids?

  1. I agree with Tzippy 100%. The question of whether the justices of the Supreme Court have kids completely misapprehends what a judge’s job is in the common law system of justice. While he is not supposed to be a machine or pretend to have no experience as a human being, a judge is supposed to divorce himself from personal bias and rule based on “what the law [including the Constitutional underpinnings of the law] is, not what it should be.”

    This raises the obvious question of what do we do with the seemingly contrasting concept that in order to qualify to be a member of a “minor sanhedrin” [Jewish court empowered to try capital cases], one could not be childless — and that the reason for this is that he would be suspected of lacking compassion (Maseches Sanhedrin 36b). But the suggestion of the gemara (quoting the Tosefta, it appears) is not that he should rule based on his sensibilities as a parent. Rather, just as today (if I may be forgiven the comparison) we examine judicial candidates for fitness by examining their professional and personal lives and seek proof of their “judicial temperament,” Chazal [the Sages] are telling us that the experience of child-rearing is a sine qua non for suitable life experience to be a judge in such cases. It is not the appeal to emotion — “if you have children, you will rule such-and-such a way” — but an objective criterion for selecting judges, comparable to age and pedigree (as in the case of members of a Jewish court).

  2. To express Torah values fully through government, we need Mashiach to set up our kind of government in our land. Meanwhile, out here, we can at least strive for government that best approximates our ideal and lets us live as Jews.

  3. “A government that is too protective of its citizens ends up stifling a great deal of free expression and free market commerce.”

    Free expression and free markets aren’t really torah values. We have obligations in both areas that dramatically restrict what we are permitted to do.

  4. To answer the opening question, 7 of the 9 current Supreme Court Justices have children:

    Roberts 2
    Scalia 9
    Kennedy 3
    Thomas 1
    Ginsburg 2
    Breyer 3
    Alito 2
    Sotomayor 0 (divorced)
    Kagan 0 (never married)

    The two dissenters were Thomas and Breyer.

  5. To Steve Mantz #12-13:

    I was really thinking more in general terms of a too-benevolent too-watchful government, maybe more like what exists in the Scandinavian countries, and not specifically about the present day United States government. I certainly appreciate the many benefits of living in a Medina Shel Chesed that allows Jews unprecedented religious freedom to practice our faith without interference.

    The flip side, however, is that in these benevolent countries one finds the biggest left-wing pressure to ban Shechita as “cruel” to the animal, and to ban Bris Milah as “cruel” to the infant.

    A government that is too protective of its citizens ends up stifling a great deal of free expression and free market commerce. There is a necessary balance that must be struck. I am sure that the justices of the Supreme Court of the United States were thinking in terms of that balance, along with various Constitutional and states’ rights issues, before its 7-2 decision on sales of these video games.

  6. I disagree with Ben David and others here who refer to the US govt as a nanny state. you are letting ideology twist this issue for you. the US govt plays a positive role, in many many things. and it gives most religious communities lots of leeway as well. on this issue, clearly, there should be a stronger stance against these games.

  7. Judy, sorry, but I totally disagree. I find it totally inaccurate to refer to the US government that way. it is a force for good and for democracy.

    as far as this decision, yes, i feel that the US Supreme Court should have taken a stance completely against these ridiculous video games. who knows what they are filling young people’s minds with???

  8. It is the classic battle between anarchy, no government at all, which the Talmud correctly describes as a situation where “men eat each other alive,” and a totalitarian government that rules over every aspect of our lives. History shows that the best systems establish law and order without curtailing personal freedoms. But how far should the “nanny state” go in keeping us from hurting ourselves?

  9. This situation reminds me of “Spy vs. Spy” in Mad Magazine. For every measure one side devises, the other side comes up with a countermeasure, and on and on. So the battle, like ours with the yetzer hara, never ends. We can’t assume that today’s measures will solve tomorrow’s problems.

  10. Thanks for reading this. Tzippy, you may be technically right but I’m furious, beyond furious that this junk is sold to our kids. No one has said anything to suggest this, but I can’t help but wonder if Levi Aron “sicko’ to readers of the NY Daily News. Leiby Kletzky’s confessed killer) wasn’t a video games addict. It just seems to fit.

  11. Be careful what you wish for… every intrusive power given to the State can, will, and HAS been used against traditional morality.

    I’m also kind of shocked to see religious posters blithely adopting the left-wing line that the government should step in and parent – a policy that has accelerated, not halted, the weakening of the American family. And a policy that can, will, and HAS been used against frum people – our “lifestyle” has been portrayed as backward and onerous in US courts, and has lost BTs child custody and visitation rights.

    Everything from gun control to sex education has been promoted by left-wingers by saying it’s “for the children”.

    I’m very glad to see at least one poster here explaining the decision – and pointing out how near-unanimous it was.

    An intrusive, overreaching nanny-state is NOT desirable for members of a religious minority.

    Which is what WE are – remember?

  12. Much has been said about the drive toward increased conformity nowadays. Do we have any conformity benchmarks from Jewish history, excluding our recent past in the affluent Wild West?

  13. Actually, I was discussing this decision with my husband the other day. We are both attorneys, and he was involved in significant First Amendment work (his former firm represented several major newspapers across the country). Before castigating the U.S. Supreme Court, one should ask oneself why the opinion was 7 to 2, placing in the majority justices from Scalia and Roberts all the way to Ginsburg on the other end of the ideological spectrum. The reason is, the law, as much as it may appeal to our values, is unconstitutional under the traditional analysis of First Amendment challenges.

    At the moment I’m not going to go into a detailed analysis of the Court’s opinion (I can do that later if anybody really wants me to do so). Suffice it to say that this case was not even a particularly close one, in fact many attorneys who follow this area of the law were surprised the Supreme Court even decided to hear the case after the law was overturned by a lower court.

    American law, beginning with the Constitution itself, reflects (and shapes) American values, and those values ARE NOT the same as Jewish values. Yes, there is overlap in some, even many, areas, but they are not the same.

    Take a less emotional example (or at least less emotional for some!) of Rabbi Slifkin’s sefarim. Hopefully we can all agree that should the State of California have made a law banning Slifkin’s sefarim, it would have been a violation of the First Amendment (well, technically the 14th Amendment which makes the 1st Amendment protections applicable also to action by the states under the Due Process clause, but you get what I mean). Yet does anybody doubt the authority of rabbanim to issue such a ban? Indeed, history is replete with rabbinic bans – Rashi, Ramchal, Rambam – how many original thinkers WEREN’T banned at some point? Slightly off topic, but a close friend of my husband who has written several sefarim, once told me tongue in cheek that he hopes one day to get banned because it would help sales! We might well disagree with the wisdom of such a ban, but not the authority or tradition to do so.

    Ah, you’ll say, but Slifkin is one thing but violence is something else. Well, yes and no. Clearly some of our rabbanim find Slifkin dangerous and not good for us. On the other hand, the Court found as a matter of law from the evidence that there was no compelling evidence that there is a link between video game violence and its effect on children. In fact, an amicus brief was submitted by a group of psychologists, criminologists, etc. who were concerned that the State of California had misstated the science in this area.

    Even culturally, we place a much higher value on conformity, down to the minutiae of a white shirt instead of a blue shirt or black pants instead of grey. We are not oriented towards liberty. Obedience, service, responsibility, dignity, humility – yes to all of these, but freedom? It’s not the Jewish weltanshauung. I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with that, mind you. I too wake up, dress in accordance with our norms, limit myself to kosher (not just kosher – yoshon, chalav yisrael), etc.. But I’m not going to get worked up when American law doesn’t reflect my values, particularly when those American laws have given us the space to be able to practice our faith with unprecedented safety and freedom.

    So full disclosure: yes I have several, kah, children including teenagers, yes I exercise strict parental control over computers including games; we don’t have a television. I encourage broad reading of diverse books – my fourteen year old over the last year, besides his limudei kodesh and extra learning, read Salinger, Kant, Wittgenstein, Huxley, Orwell, and Chomsky. I told him Chomsky is just silly but he can read it if he wants. By the way, all of these were banned at some point. I also have a shelf of Rabbi Slifkin’s sefarim…curiously positioned immediately above my husband’s book on state constitutional law. Anybody want to buy some copies? It’s fascinating, but not a best-seller:-)!

  14. I’m horrified, even though I was already aware of the type of games mentioned. There is something seriously wrong with our constitution if it prevents banning of such dangerous and damaging “entertainment”. The moral fabric of our country gets worse all the time. As for kids, once they’ve already tasted this morally forbidden fruit, and are angry if it is taken away, they probably would find it elsewhere if it is unavailable at home. But it’s still worthwhile to set the rules of the home and keep them, so that your home remains livable.

  15. Banning the sales of these games to minors doesn’t help, as minors will pay adults (i.e. brothers and sisters and neighbors and schoolmates and friends who have passed their 18th birthday) to obtain these games.

    Where do we start? Even “G” rated Disney videos feature girls at the beach or swimming pool, dressed in the manner that the larger society deems appropriate for the beach or swimming pool. This is in a “G” rated video.

    I do not have an Internet filter. What appears just on the home page for msn as paid commercial ads suitable for a general audience is pretty unpleasant. An ad for a diet product displays the unclad midriff and legs of a woman in a low-cut bathing suit bottom, while another ad for Netflix shows a scene from a recent movie with a couple together that presumably gets a PG rating because nothing is openly showed, just suggested.

    As Rabbi Paysach Krohn said once in a speech, there is a tidal wave of immorality out there threatening to sweep right into our homes.

    There has to be peer pressure the right way. Send your kids to schools where the “cool” kids are the best kids.

    My youngest son, now 21 years old, started in a very strict boys’ high school seven years ago. He originally thought that he had to be a clown in order to be “cool.” He quickly discovered that the boys considered to be “most cool” and most admired by the chevra were the boys who were the “shtarker” learners. Luckily he found this out before being thrown out of that school! Happily he flourished there because it was simply a great group of guys and wonderful for us because the peer pressure went in the right way.

    If kids are addicted by these video games, it is important for parents to clarify the distinction between real-life and video. There should be efforts to involve kids in real-life kindness projects, to get them into being a little bit less selfish and a little more caring about other people. Or at least some extra-curricular activity that gets kids away from the computer, such as sports or scouting or after-school clubs. Many schools, not just our yeshivos, encourage community service by kids (think of the Archon Service Organization), and parents can set an example by tearing themselves away from the box for an hour spent at a nursing home.

  16. I agree with Michael that the main responsibility here falls on parents.

    However, we have a large and increasing number of dysfunctional families in the US, where there is no marriage and one or both parents won’t take child-rearing (or any!) responsibilities seriously. In these cases, who will keep the children out of trouble? The kids didn’t bring this situation on themselves.

  17. Good for you for confiscating you children’s game.

    I agree that the courts should ban certail types of games, however as religious, caring parents with different standards from other elements in society, we cannot rely on the courts, game manufacturers, web site providers, TV broadcasters, or even our schools to decide what is suitable or not suitable for our children.

    It is up to us to decide what activities are acceptable in our home and for how long (even an eductaional or harmless game / program can be detremental after many hours)

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