Anthony Comstock: the first pro-family champion in the modern history

Pioneer in the fight against pornography and in efforts to press the Congress and politicians to protect families and their children and adolescents
By Julio Severo To expose children and adolescents to pornographic materials and movies under the cloak of ³sexual education´, showing explicit scenes and positions of sex, including homosexual. To expose children and adolescents to methods called of ³family planning´, including abortion, to hinder pregnancy as if it were a sexually transmissible disease. That, unhappily, is the pattern of criminal violence prevailing at the schools and in the society when perverts are not kept from changing the laws and the culture.

Pro-family culture under attack
The vast majority of the efforts to expose children and adolescents to the pornographic sexual education and information and ³services´ of abortion and contraception is a result from campaigns by the International Planned Parenthood Federation, founded in the 1950s by Margaret Sanger. It was a cultural and pornographic imperialism that defeated legal barriers firstly in the US and later expanded itself as a virus to the rest of the world. Today the International Planned Parenthood Federation is the largest world promoter of contraception, abortion and pornographic sexual education in the schools. The first legal barriers overthrown were in the US, where Sanger hated the legendary Comstock Law, which hindered her from publishing and establishing her birth-control ideology that, according to her Eventually would destroy Christianity. Eventually would exterminate the black race. Eventually would purify the white race. Eventually would promote abortion as the women¶s human right. In the 1930s, through a lot of campaigns, the Comstock Law suffered an amendment to remove the prohibition in the distribution of information about contraception.

The amendment came by pressures from Margaret Sanger, who in the 1930s was already praising openly the politics of racial purification in Nazi Germany. She is considered the official inventor of the term ³birth control´. While she struggled to destroy the Comstock Law, her private life was in utter shambles. Her marriage had ended and she went from one lover to another. Her small children were so neglected and forgotten that her small daughter ultimately died of pneumonia. She was involved with innumerable erotic fantasies and fetishes. She dabbled in the occult, participating in séances and practicing Eastern meditation, going so far as the mysteries of Rosicrucianism and Theosophy. That picture contrasted strongly with the author of the law that she so much hated and fought. In fact, the modern horrendous picture of children and adolescents being exposed by their own government to pornography, licentiousness and homosexual aberrations at the classrooms only reached that point because many Christian leaders didn¶t want and don¶t want to take a stand of social action.

Anthony Comstock: a man of God
That sexual violence officially clothed as education of children and adolescents today is something criminal, and it is this way that Anthony Comstock treated it. Since late 1860s, his action was aimed at fighting propagandas of pornography, abortion and birth control. Born in 1844 in Connecticut in a town called New Canaan, since childhood he loved to read the Bible and he was an evangelical Christian that didn¶t practice Christianity just inside of the church walls. Eventually he became an active worker in the Young Men¶s Christian Association (YMCA) in New York. YMCA was a much known evangelical organization, where even D.L. Moody was an active member. In that time, YMCA founded the Society for the Suppression of Vice to advance the work of Comstock, where he worked as secretary until his death. He fought the social vices by lobbying legislators. He traveled to Washington DC and convinced congressmen about the need of laws to protect families and their children and adolescents from pornography. Such pioneering efforts were the first demonstrations of pro-family lobby, or campaigns to press and influence legislators to prioritize the well-being of the families. His pressures on the Congress successfully led to the 1873 establishment of a strong federal law banning the transportation of obscene, lewd, or lascivious items in the mail. The law, with penalties up to ten years in prison, was eventually known as Comstock Law. To implement the law, Comstock was officially appointed for the United States Post Office, with powers to enforce the banning of pornography. From 1873 to 1915, he conducted spectacular police raids on pornographic publishers and vendors.

He also wrote extensively to warn families on the pornographic influences ² a big social problem today. He said, ³Parents have a right, and it is their duty, to close the door of their home against these evils. It is not infringing the liberty of the press to say, µThese influences shall not enter my home, where my beloved children dwell.¶´ (Traps for the Young, page 18.) For over 40 years, he was responsible for the jailing of 3,600 pornographers, while a huge quantity of pornographic material, indecent articles, contraceptives and abortifacients were seized and destroyed. Comstock personally arrested four pornographers in a single day. Before being caught, one malefactor had sent a note to another: ³Get out of the way. Comstock is after you. Damn fool won¶t look at money.´ (Carlson) In one year alone, 14,200 lb of pornographic photographic plates, 134,000 lb of pornographic books, 200,000 photographs and images, 31,500 boxes of pills and potions, and 60,300 obscene articles were destroyed. It is estimated that fifteen tons of pornographic books and publications, and four million photographs, were destroyed. This result was not incidental: Comstock took his career and responsibilities very seriously. Were these materials truly pornographic? James Petersen, a longtime editor of Playboy wrote, ³Comstock never described the objects he suppressed, but some pictures survive. Even today these postcards have the power to arouse.´ (Carlson) Some of the destroyed books had outright titles, such as: Lord K¶s Rapes and Seductions.

The fight against contraception and abortion
Why the anti-pornography raids of Comstock were also anti-contraception and antiabortion raids? Dr. Allan Carlson, president of the World Congress of Families, explained, His own practical experience showed that dealers in obscene books and prints also commonly sold contraceptives and abortifacients. As he wrote about one of his early arrests for the YMCA, pornographic books ³were publicly advertised and sold in connection with articles for producing abortion, prevention of conception, articles to aid seductions, and for indiscrete and immoral purposes.´ Other early arrests involved a mix of printed items together with immoral ³rubber goods´ [this phrase encompassed masturbation aids and early condoms and diaphragms] and syringes for abortion. Comstock and his allies also associated contraception with prostitution because such pleasure houses frequently sold birth control potions and devices on the side. (Carlson) Comstock linked abortion and contraception together for the common danger they posed to women¶s health. In this view, Comstock actually stood in solidarity with the cutting-edge medical authorities of his day. (Carlson)

One of these was D. Humphreys Storer, MD, Professor of Midwifery at Harvard University. In 1855, he gave the Introductory Lecture to the new Medical Class at Harvard. Entitled ³Two Frequent Causes of Uterine Disease,´ he pointed first to the growing practice among new brides of turning ³to means, readily procurable, to destroy the life within her.´ Storer underscored ³the probability of there being increased detriments and irretrievable harm´ to the woman¶s own body. The second cause of an upswing in uterine disease, he reported, was ³the means so extensively employed to prevent conception.´ While some doctors who rejected abortion accepted contraception, Storer insisted that interference of any sort with the sexual act would produce trouble: ³If...the operations of nature are interrupted, different results must follow....´ (Carlson) Yet, Comstock had also Christian reasons to oppose contraception, The prevention of conception would work the greatest demoralization. God has set certain natural barriers. If you turn loose the passions and break down the fear you bring...disaster.... It would debase sacred things, break down the health of women, and disseminate a greater curse than the plagues and diseases of Europe. (Carlson) He was author of the book Traps for the Young, published in 1883 and addressed to parents, teachers and ministers, giving them advices on how to protect children from inappropriate contents from the media of his day and warning also on the risks of vices. It is probably the first handbook on prevention to the pornographic temptations, and how children and adolescents were being dragged by the lowest trends from the 19-century media. He also wrote Morals Versus Art, published in1888. The Comstock Law is still in effect in federal laws to prohibit obscenity. It is vigorously enforced regarding child pornography on the Internet and in print. So the modern repression to the children¶s pornographic exploration is established on the pioneering efforts of an active evangelical Christian. But after the death of Comstock in 1915, his law began to succumb to the systematic attacks by Sanger, because there was not anyone that was able or wanted to fill the role of Comstock. Even so, Rev. Billy Sunday (1862-1935), probably the greatest preacher to large crowds before Billy Graham, condemned alcoholism, pornography, birth control and other social evils. Of Presbyterian orientation, he denounced Sanger and her ideology until his last days. Among Catholics, the denunciations came from Fr. John Ryan, in the 1930s. Not much different from Sunday, Comstock saw alcoholic beverage as harmful. By coincidence, Sanger died as an alcoholic in 1966. Anthony Comstock accomplished great legal feats of protection of families and he faced, in his own generation, many abortion and pornography activists. Yet, during his lifetime, who prevailed was him. His worst enemies were ³free-love´ socialist activists Emma Goldman and Margaret Sanger, but while he was alive, all that they and their several socialist partners could do was to complain, defame and grumble. He closed down gigantic gambling and prostitution houses, suffering the antipathy and hatred from big mafias and gangs. He closed down the largest abortion business of his

time, operated by a very wealthy lady, the famous Madame Restell, who succeeded enormously by selling abortifacient drugs from her New York mansion. Madame Restell, the biggest abortionist in the 19 century, and her army of supporters were defeated by one man. Madame Restell had accumulated a fortune of $1.5 million. Comstock came to her home, posing as a man who had impregnated his lover. After Madame Restell sold him an abortion potion, he arrested her. She offered him $40,000 to forget the matter, a huge sum for the time. He refused the bribe. Comstock¶s notes on the case tell the result: ³[Restell] committed suicide by cutting her throat [the] morning of trial. A bloody ending to a bloody life.´ (Carlson) These filthy businesses, which made subtle newspaper ads of their services, brought a large profit to the papers. It is not wonder then that Comstock was targeted for frequent hatred and attacks from the press. Liberal American press attacked the Society for the Suppression of Vice (SSV) as a den of fanatics. With Comstock, the ³fanatical´ founders of SSV were: J. Pierpont Morgan, a famous financier; William E. Dodge, a copper magnate; Samuel Colgate, head of a soap business. Colgate became the first president of SSV, and he served until his death in 1898. (Carlson) Other early officers were textbook publisher Alfred S. Barnes (of later Barnes and Noble fame) and attorney William Beecher, son of the celebrated preacher Henry Ward Beecher. Subsequent donors to the SSV included famous people as Andrew Carnegie, John Wanamaker, Mrs. Russell Sage, Louis C. Tiffany, and Joseph H. Choate. Even Rev. Noah Porter, the president of Yale University, was directly involved in the work of Comstock. (Carlson)

Time travel
I did, so to speak, a time travel, reading the literature of that time, to check the impact of Comstock. I read his biography, his writings and their enemies¶ books. Their critics, besides the newspapers, were secularists, ³free love´ advocates and individuals that hated Christian values. One Robinge Bennett (also known as D.M. Bennett), writing sarcastically a book entitled ³The Champions of the Church´ in 1878, not only condemned Comstock as a ³criminal´, but also, with many other words, decharacterized Jesus Christ as God and characterized him as a mere pagan entity, present with different names in different pagan religions in the world. What is fascinating is that, according to spiritualists¶ declarations, the Comstock Law, by attacking frontally pornography and the abortion and birth control propaganda, damaged spiritualism. A spiritualist claims that Comstock ³explicitly crafted his law to stop the distribution of one Spiritualist-free love newspaper.´ The Comstock Law said,

Every obscene, lewd, or lascivious, and every filthy book, pamphlet, picture, paper, letter, writing, print or other publications of an indecent character, and every article or thing designed, adapted, or intended for preventing conception or producing abortion, or for any indecent or immoral use; and every article, instrument, substance, drug, medicine, or thing which is advertised or described in a manner calculated to lead another to use or apply it for preventing conception or producing abortion, or for any indecent or immoral purpose. (Carlson) D.M. Bennett, who was a ³free love´ advocate, had his reasons to attack Comstock: he was twice jailed for publishing obscene works. Attempts to repeal the Comstock Law, or even amend it in a meaningful way, repeatedly failed. On his death in 1915, Comstock¶s legal empire was intact. Indeed, a significant weakening of the anti-contraceptive clauses came only in the 1930s, and then only through court decisions pushed by Sanger and her supporters. How can this durability be explained? (Carlson) In 1850 the number of church buildings was 38,183 in the US. Dwight L. Moody and Ira D. Sankey began their revival campaigns in America in the 1870s, the exact time the Comstock Law was enacted. Moody explained: ³I do not know of anything that America needs more today than men and women on fire with the fire of heaven.´ Millions responded. By 1890, America had 142,521 churches, an increase of 272 percent. Church membership and attendance figures also soared. The sexual morality of Evangelical Protestantism, including its opposition to birth control, had triumphed because of revivals. Comstock faced no important opposition. His most vociferous foes tended to be in the small ³free love´ movement, a campaign essentially seeking the abolition of marriage laws. (Carlson) Comstock used his job to fight pornography in the most important media in his time. As special agent for the U.S. Post Office, he refused for thirty-three years to take his appropriated salary. ³Give me the Authority that such an office confers,´ he confided in his diary, ³and the Salary and honors may go to the Winds.´ His paycheck actually came from the Society for the Suppression of Vice, giving him certain independence in his public actions. As postal inspector, he held a document requiring all mail-carrying American railroads to give him free passage on demand. During his first ten months in office alone, he traveled 23,000 miles. Comstock had the power to ³make searches for mailable matters transported in violation of law.´ (Carlson) By 1877, he had ended the corrupt black market lottery, or numbers game, in New York City. In an era with little consumer protection, Comstock¶s successful campaign against medical quacks and the purveyors of patent medicines even drew the praise of his most vociferous opponents. Indeed, virtually all of the ³contraceptives´ and ³abortifacients´ on the open market in 1872 were, at best, ineffective; at worst, poisons. (Carlson)

A spiritual warfare
In that time, the most important propagandist of those drugs, in England, was English lesbian Annie Besant (1847-1933). She was one of the leading figures in Theosophy and was the most important advocate of the idea of babies¶ reduction ² in other words, birth control or family planning. Her main way to influence America was sending her literature by mail, right in the ³territory´ of Comstock. The fact that a significant number of advocates for abortion, pornography, ³free love´ and birth control were spiritualists shows that Comstock was also involved in a great spiritual war. A spiritualist complained, ³In the times of the Comstock inquisitions and book burnings, many of the best books showing the highest Light of Spiritualism« were destroyed under the term µpornography¶ in the late 1800s to early 1900s and publishers, book sellers and mediums were thrown into prison, most died there.´ Many of those prisoners had been condemned for promoting their pornographic literature among children and adolescents. Because of his work, Comstock received many death threats, and he even suffered physical violence and a bomb attack, which failed. A lot of times, he needed police escort to protect himself from ambushes from contracted murderers. But the forty years that he was able to continue his work amid many dangers against his life prove that there was a strong Hand on him. Before the death threats, he exclaimed, ³What folly! Can mortal man do aught his Maker does not permit? Cannot God change the purpose of man even though the arm is raised with the deadly weapon clasped ready to strike? Cannot He turn away death from whomsoever He will ? All the evil men in New York cannot harm a hair of my head, were it not the will of God. If it be His will, what right have I or any one to say aught ? I am only a speck, a mite, be fore God, yet not a hair of my head can be harmed unless it be His will. Oh, to live, to feel, to be Thy will be done!´ (Fighter, Some Impressions of a Lifetime of Adventure in Conflict with the Powers of Evil, p. 85.) They tried often to bribe him with very costly offers, even offering him a five-year trip around the world, with all of the expenses paid and with payment in advance of all of his salaries covering that entire period of time, on the condition that he should leave completely alone the dirty gambling, pornography and prostitution business. But he refused it. How could he accept? For over 30 years, he worked for the US government without accepting any wages. But when he refused, his enemies then bribed police, political and press leaders to upset Comstock¶ work.

His biographer, Charles Gallaudet Trumbull, writing in ³Anthony Comstock, Fighter, Some Impressions of a Lifetime of Adventure in Conflict with the Powers of Evil´, says in the pages 235 and 237, ³They have tried to lead him into temptation, but he has resisted the most seductive traps that they have been able to set for him. They put detectives on his track, hoping that they might discover that he had at some time been guilty of some act of which he might now be ashamed, and great sums of money were offered to the man who should supply them with information that could be used as a club to drive Anthony Comstock into a corner. To earn this reward, many of the sharpest investigators in the land searched the record of his life from the very day he left the cradle in his mother's arms´. ³Their enemies and yours have sought your life by open violence and secret craft. They attempted intimidation, bribery and slander´. God¶s Word proved its reality in his life, with the following verses that were his favorites, ³Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.´ (Isaiah 41:10 AV) ³No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is of me, saith the LORD.´ (Isaiah 54:17 AV) In spite of the constant attacks from ³free love´ advocates, Comstock was honored.

A successful warrior
In 1911, former Harvard President Charles William Eliot declared the Boston branch of SSV to be a ³thoroughly scientific charity.´ (Carlson) In early 1915, President Woodrow Wilson named Comstock to lead the American Delegation to the International Purity Conference, held that year in San Francisco. As historian Paul Boyer concedes, of the 4,000 delegates present ³there were probably not two persons who did not unreservedly share his point of view.´ (Carlson) After this crowning event, Comstock left this world. Comstock was successful. Between 1873 and 1877, he ³probably prosecuted more abortionists...than any other person in the United States.´ After his five years of aggressive action, ³abortion-related advertising declined precipitously throughout the nation.´ Indeed, historian James Mohr concludes that because of Comstock¶s work, ³[a]bortion¶s period of commercial visibility, which had lasted since the 1840¶s, was over.´ (Carlson) Another historian of the abortion issue, Leslie Reagan, concludes that abortion was off the agenda of organized religion until the late 1950s simply because, ³for nearly a

century, abortion was a crime and no social movement suggested otherwise.´ This was one of the large achievements of Comstock. (Carlson) How is it that for almost 100 years the Comstock Law made morality to prevail above immorality? How is it that one man was able for a long period of forty years to scare and defeat a crowd of wealthy pornographic, spiritualistic, aborting and immoral Goliaths? The life of Comstock demonstrates that he who is in the Lord makes exploits. While Comstock fought against pornography, abortion and contraception, Protestant churches were blooming with genuine revivals. During the unbeatable Comstock era, D.L. Moody was used by God in great revivals, Billy Sunday began his ministry that reached America from one end to the other and the Pentecostal movement was born in America to change the history of the world evangelism. The Comstock era, which was marked by the greatest Pentecostal revivals ever seen in modern time, was an era where America was an indisputably and predominantly Protestant nation. According to the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica, the US religious scenery was in 1890: 68% were Protestants and 30% were Catholic. But since contraception and abortion became totally legalized in the US ² contraception in the late 1960s and abortion in 1973 ², the scenery has changed. From 1972 to 1993, Protestants constituted about 63% of the US population. By 2002, they were 52% and for the first time since the founding of the US, now Protestants are a minority. The dream of Sanger came true: birth control is destroying Christianity in America. Today, with the domination of pornography, abortion and contraception in the American society, America lost her formerly Protestant predominance. As a significant example, the Supreme Court, which has decriminalized abortion, contraception, sodomy and much of pornography under the pretext of ³free speech´, is now composed, according to Ann Coulter, of six Catholics and two Jews, making it only slightly less diverse than the predominantly pro-abortion and pro-sodomy cable news hosts, 75 percent of whom are Catholic or Jewish. Today, with the domination of contraception, the gay agenda and its sterile lifestyle threaten to engulf America and the world in a homosexual and contraceptive tyranny. America and the world need revival. And genuine revival goes together with social justice, as the many social conquests of Comstock attest. Portuguese version of this e-book: Anthony Comstock: o primeiro campeão pró-família da história moderna ************************** In the elaboration of this valuable article, I read and I made use of the following works:

Anthony Comstock, Fighter, Some Impressions of a Lifetime of Adventure in Conflict with the Powers of Evil (Fleming H. Revell Company, New York, 1913) ³Comstockery, Contraception, and the Family The Remarkable Achievements of an Anti-Vice Crusader´, article by Dr. Allan Carlson. (This is probably the best article I have read on Comstock and I did not resist the temptation of using many portions!) Traps for the Young, written by Anthony Comstock (Funk & Wagnalls Company, New York, 1883) Conservapedia Britannica Concise 2005. Encyclopedia Britannica 1911.

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