William J Brennan Jr feature

Library of Congress: Official portraits of the 1976 U.S. Supreme Court: Justice William J. Brennan, Jr.

Roth v. United States

By June 24, 1957

In Roth v. United States, the Supreme Court determines that obscenity is a category of speech not protected by the First Amendment. In his opinion, Justice William Brennan writes: “Obscene material is material which deals with sex in a manner appealing to prurient interest.” A five-part test is set up in Roth to determine obscenity in written works. Only the “dominant theme” of the “work as a whole” using “community standards” can justify a ban based on obscenity.


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