The forces behind the raid on Ros Oxley’s Paddington Gallery and Bill Henson’s fine artwork are very dark, and the tactics they are using emanate directly from the US. They must be stopped now because if they are not, you can expect all manner of innocent people to be charged by police responding to vigilante pressure.

The sort of tactics used by Hetty Johnson and her fellow “child abuse campaigners” in the Henson case are, unfortunately a fact of life in the US.

Take, for example, the 2000 case of 48-year-old Ohio mother Cynthia Stewart who was charged with child p-rnography offences and had the welfare authorities investigating her to determine whether or not she was a suitable parent. Ms Stewart had taken photos of her 8-year-old daughter – a child she adored, and who was born after Stewart had had several miscarriages, and with whom she had a very normal and healthy relationship. Some of the photos Stewart took of her daughter showed her n-ked.

Then there is the case of book chain Barnes & Noble which in 1998 was indicted in Alabama and Tennessee for displaying and selling books by well-known art photographers David Hamilton and Jock Sturges, whose works are similar to Henson’s. The indictment came because of political pressure applied by extremist morals campaigners.

Sturges, a highly regarded artist, has been subjected to numerous episodes of harassment and bullying from morals campaigners and law enforcement officials over the years, even in his liberal home town of San Francisco.

And what about Ejlat Feuer, a 45-year-old New Jersey businessman who had been married for 18 years when in 1995 he was handcuffed and taken from his home simply because he had taken nude photographs of his 6-year-old daughter, as part of a professional photography course he was undertaking.

Then there was a case in Tucson, Arizona in 1994 when police raided a gallery and removed pictures by artist Robyn Stoutenburg of a colleague’s 4-year-old son.

So watch out artists, parents and anyone else who produces, possesses or displays photographs of n-ked under-age young people. The US-style bullying and harassment tactics that have led to a climate of hysteria over the sight of child n-dity in any form are now here in Australia.

And what is worse, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and other opportunistic politicians, with a few notable exceptions like Malcolm Turnbull, have endorsed these nasty vigilante tactics.

Police forces around Australia must resist the rantings of morals campaigners who have a decidedly warped view of art and the human body. They should ignore the hysteria created by the Hetty Johnsons of the world and respect freedom of speech. If they do not, Australian democracy will take a serious hammering.

Peter Fray

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