Power, Ridicule, and the Destruction of Religious Moral Reform Politics in the 1920s

P. C. Kemeny

in The Secular Revolution

Published by University of California Press

Published in print June 2003 | ISBN: 9780520230002
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520936706 | DOI:
Power, Ridicule, and the Destruction of Religious Moral Reform Politics in the 1920s

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Changes in American culture throughout the 1920s provided new political opportunities for the emergence and mobilization of an anticensorship coalition of activists that mobilized public sentiment against censorship by ridiculing the society and through judicial action. By the late 1920s, censorship came to be justified because it guaranteed the rights of others. The society's commitment to censorship as a means of moral reform was an expression of the mainline Protestant sense of its custodianship over American society. The Watch and Ward Society conceived of pernicious literature as a social problem and identified itself as one of many late-nineteenth-century voluntary societies that attempted to reform different troubling aspects of American culture. Modernists, young intellectuals, and the civil libertarian movement overthrew the Protestant establishment. Secular activists achieved a decisive victory when they successfully revised the state's obscenity laws in 1930.

Keywords: American culture; censorship; moral reform; Watch and Ward; civil libertarian

Chapter.  24435 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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