"Historically, censorship has often been the first step toward dictatorship."
---Author Susan Isaacs
Censorship In Omaha & Surrounding Areas

"To limit the press is to insult a nation; to prohibit reading of certain books is to declare the inhabitants to be either fools or slaves."

---Philosopher Claude Adrien Helvetius

"The sexual restrictions of Stalin's Soviet Union, Hitler's Germany, and Mao's China would have gladdened the hearts of those Americans who fear sexual images and literature. Every tyrant knows that if they can control human sexuality, they can control life."

----Journalist Pete Hamill

"They bring their daughter to see a murder, but they wouldn't even let her hear about an orgasm. Americans sure are strange."

---John Irving, Hotel New Hampshire

Omaha Anti-Censorship Home
Omaha Censor Cited For Indecent Exposure

     Undercover government agents enter a store. While browsing, they discover some publications that the local regime doesn't like. The owner of the store is hauled away and imprisoned. 
        Does this describe something that happened in Nazi Germany? China? Under the rule of the Taliban? No, this happened right here in Omaha, Nebraska, USA, to a local store owner, John Haltom, nicknamed "Dr. John."
At the beginning of 2000, in response to complaints, Haltom was cited for distributing obscene materials from his store Dr. John's Lingerie Boutique near 72nd & Pacific in Omaha. The materials that were purchased from the Dr. John's store by undercover officers were just X rated videos showing people (consenting adults) having sex. In April 2000, Omaha City Prosecutor Marty Conboy and assistant city prosecutors used unconstitutional anti-porn laws to railroad Haltom and convict him on two obscenity charges. Douglas County Judge Edna Atkins sentenced Haltom to 4 months in prison just for selling these sexually explicit videos. (Omaha World Herald, 4/27/2000) In July 2000, Haltom was railroaded again by Marty Conboy and his staff on another charge for distributing obscene materials. Again, the materials bought from the Dr. Johns store by undercover officers were just sexually explicit videos. Douglas County Judge Joseph Caniglia sentenced Haltom to nine months in prison for this conviction. (Omaha World Herald, 7/15/2000) City Prosecutor Marty Conboy and his staff continued to prosecute Haltom until Haltom's legal expenses began to mount up. To avoid more costly legal battles, Haltom was intimidated into pleading no contest to two more charges of distributing obscene materials. He was fined $2000, and three additional charges were dropped as part of the plea bargain agreement.  
In April 2002, The Nebraska State Supreme Court overturned the guilty verdict of Haltom's first trial. However, in November 2002, the Nebraska State Supreme Court upheld the guilty verdict in Haltom's other trial. (This is hypocritical, as the Nebraska State Supreme Court ruled in 1999 that video stores in Bellevue have the right to rent porn videos. See Omaha World Herald, 8/27/99. More on this below.) In June 2003, Haltom began serving his nine month sentence as a political prisoner. He was released in December 2003 (receiving an early release for good behavior).  In early 2004, Haltom was intimidated into pleading no contest to another unconstitutional obscenity charge for selling the same type of videos from one of his other Dr. John's stores in Scottsbluff. He was fined $1000. Despite Conboy's efforts to shut it down, the Dr. John's Lingerie store in Omaha remains open today and is still selling the same type of porn videos.
        The materials Haltom was prosecuted for selling at the Dr. John's store are just X rated videos showing people who are consenting adults having sex. These porn videos are sold in a store only accessible by those 18 and older who want to look at porn. After a minor did buy a video from the Dr. John's store, the store upgraded its ID policy and now cards everyone upon entry. There are no peep show booths or theaters for these movies at the Dr. John's store. The videos cannot be watched until the customer gets to the privacy of their own home. And of course, the videos are totally harmless, Haltom was sentenced to jail for a truly victimless "crime." Anybody who is offended by these videos can simply make the decision not to visit the store.
        During the time Conboy was trying to force the Dr. Johns store to shut down, the same kind of porn videos were still readily available in other cities in the metro area anyway. In fact, a Bellevue store that rented porn, Couch Potato Video on 51st & Harrison St., was literally on the Bellevue-Omaha Border. In this area, the dividing line between Bellevue and Omaha runs along Harrison St. If this store had been on the other side of Harrison St., it would have been in Omaha. Another Bellevue video store that rented porn, Captain Video on Fort Crook Rd, was only a couple of miles outside of Omaha. In Council Bluffs, the Romantix Adult Emporium, a porn shop at 32nd & Broadway, is right across the bridge from downtown Omaha. Although in the 1990s former Nebraska Attorney General Don Stenberg did attempt to force Bellevue and other Sarpy County video stores to stop renting porn, he was unsuccessful. Fortunately, in 1994 and 1998, the Sarpy County Court ruled that the Bellevue video stores have the First Amendment Right to rent the videos. The Sarpy County Court's decision was upheld by the Nebraska State Supreme Court in 1999 (Omaha World Herald, 8/27/99).

       City prosecutor Marty Conboy doesn't just want to censor porn videos, he also wants to censor artwork. In 1994, Conboy threatened the owner of a bar called The Run with arrest and prosecution under unconstitutional obscenity laws for displaying a gay art collection. Conboy deemed the collection of pencil sketches and paintings offensive because they depicted men having sex. The owner, Terry Tippit, agreed to remove the collection until the case could be decided by a judge in a civil court case instead of a criminal trial. Even though the art was displayed in a place for adults only, in 1998 Douglas County District Judge Michael Amdor ruled in Conboy's favor, indicating that the pieces of art "should be destroyed or removed from the state." (Omaha World Herald, 1/8/98) This judge conducted his court room in much the same way that the Nazis conducted book burnings. 
         The complaints about obscene materials at the Dr. Johns store that later resulted in Haltom's prosecution might have come from members of the fundamentalist anti-porn
group Omaha for Decency. This group, led by chairperson Don Kohls, monitors the contents of local book and video stores and tries to convince stores to remove materials that are against the group's religion. Omaha for Decency also pressures cities to use unconstitutional obscenity laws to prosecute and/or intimidate stores who sell or rent sexually explicit material. In the case of the Bellevue video stores, Omaha for Decency was directly responsible for former Nebraska Attorney General Don Stenberg's failed attempt to have porn videos removed from the stores' shelves. In the early 1990s, members of Omaha for Decency began complaining to the Sarpy County Attorney's office about the porn videos. Michael Wellman, the Sarpy County Attorney at the time, said that the only complaints his office ever received about the videos came from members of Omaha for Decency. Obviously nobody else in the Omaha metro area cared what adults viewed in the privacy of their own homes. (Since the Bellevue video stores did not have any peep show booths or theaters for these movies, the movies could only be viewed in the privacy of customers' homes.) When Wellman's office refused to use unconstitutional obscenity laws to prosecute the stores, members of Omaha for Decency began complaining to then Nebraska Attorney General Don Stenberg. Stenberg then attempted to force the stores to remove their porn sections. Stenberg's actions were a direct result of complaints from Omaha for Decency, not from the actions of law enforcement, politicians, the general public, or local prosecutors. Fortunately, the courts ruled against Don Stenberg and for the video stores' First Amendment Rights to carry the videos. If it hadn't been for Omaha for Decency, these stores may never have had to go to court.
     It is not just porn movies that Omaha for Decency tries to censor. In 1991, a member of Omaha for Decency pressured the city of Omaha to prosecute a Read All About It bookstore for selling, not porn videos, but books which merely contained sexually explicit language. Fortunately, the store was acquitted of the unconstitutional charges. Omaha for Decency also wants to dictate what music Omahans can and cannot listen to. In 1992, Omaha for Decency conducted a sting operation against music stores in Omaha. The group sent minors into the stores to buy The 2 Live Crew rap album Sports Weekend, As Nasty As They Wanna Be Part II, which contains sexually explicit lyrics. When some of the stores sold the album to the minors, Omaha for Decency convinced the city to file charges against the stores for selling sexually explicit materials to minors. The charges were later dropped when the stores agreed to take steps to prevent minors from buying albums with sexually explicit lyrics. Although the purpose of the sting operation was supposed to be stopping the sales of the material to minors, Omaha for Decency admitted that they wanted the album banned altogether in Omaha. (Omaha World Herald, 4/16/1992)
        Omaha for Decency claims that eliminating porn would reduce sex crimes. (Research does not support this claim. This is discussed on
another section of this site.) But it is obvious that Omaha for Decency really just wants to use the law to force their religious beliefs on everyone. In the Sunday, July 9, 2000 Omaha World Herald (page 10-B), Omaha for Decency ran a full page anti-porn newspaper ad entitled "Open Letter of Concern Regarding Obscenity In Our Community." The ad was signed by local pastors and ministers showing their support for the criminal prosecution of Omaha stores such as Dr. John's that carry porn. In this ad, Omaha for Decency stated that porn videos "violate God's guidelines in Holy Scripture." Omaha for Decency also stated in the ad "That when God's standards are rejected, culture inevitably becomes debased and corrupt...They are given over to 'statutes that were not good and laws they could not live by.' (Ezekiel 20:24-25)."  Also, as reported on Nebraska Public Television, the following is Omaha for Decency Chairperson Don Kohls' argument for prosecuting those who distribute sexually explicit materials. Kohls stated, "In the Garden of Eden, the virtue of man was stripped away, and the only way that that virtue can be returned is by Jesus Christ being Lord over our sexual desires."
        Wonder how these censors would like it if someone from their church was jailed just because some Christian material they distributed was deemed to violate the guidelines of some other religion's God? Censorship is censorship.
            This issue isn't just about the right of adults to view porn if they choose to. It is about something far more important, one of the basic things that distinguishes a free country from the Taliban or a Nazi dictatorship, free speech and press. Obviously Omaha City Prosecutor Marty Conboy and his staff prefer the latter types of government, because that's exactly what they have turned Omaha into.
        Ralston has also tried to censor porn, they have just taken a different approach. In June 2007, the Ralston Taliban, better known as the Ralston City Council and mayor, unanimously approved a law suggested by the mayor. This law is intended "to regulate sexually oriented businesses to promote the health, safety, morals, and general welfare" of the public. The law bans porn shops from locating in typical commercial zones. It also bans these stores from locating within 1,000 feet of any church, school, park, hospital, community center, or library. Although Ralston had no such businesses at the time, this law essentially bans them from ever opening in Ralston. Even though the law is technically not a ban, it is strict enough that it makes it unlikely that a porn shop could find a place to operate within Ralston that complies with the restrictions. (Ralston Recorder, 5/15/2007, Omaha World Herald, 6/4/2007, 6/6/2007, & 6/20/2007) The law does not appear to have been challenged as of this writing, probably because Ralston simply doesn't have any such businesses.
The Taliban Department for Prevention of Vice and Promotion of Virtue, which went as far as banning TVs, video players, and Internet access to keep material they deemed immoral out of Afghanistan, would be very proud of both Ralston and Omaha's government. 

Conboy, is this why you prosecute the sales of porn videos? 
"People who do not feel secure about a relationship or their own sexual attractiveness may feel negatively about sexual videos...These videos usually use actors who are..."well endowed," so that any comparison...can reinforce an insecure viewer's low opinion of her or his own body." 
----June Reinisch, PhD, New Report on Sex (1990), St Martin's Press
Are you hung like a mosquito, Conboy, and jealous of the guys who appear in porn?

Omaha Anti-Censorship Home
Omaha Censor Cited For Indecent Exposure


Legal Disclaimer (for those who haven't figured it out):
 While the information on this site is accurate,
the photographs of "An Omaha City Prosecutor Reviews Evidence" and
"Omahans for Decency Meeting" are fictional and used for commentary purposes only.