It was an overflow crowd in a meeting room at The First Church in Oberlin (1834) – the location on Sept 13 for the launch of the book “Framing Innocence” A Mothers Photographs, A Prosecutor’s Zeal, and a Small Town Response, by Lynn Powell: the story of the prosecution of Cynthia Stewart for child pornography. On 6 July 1999, Ms. Stewart – an amateur photographer, school bus driver, and mother of two- dropped off 11 rolls of film at a drug store near her home in Oberlin, Ohio. The rolls of film contained pictures of her eight year old daughter, Nora, including two of her in the shower. She picked up ten of the rolls a week later (adding to the nearly 35,000 pictures she had already taken), but the store and its lab refused to return that last roll. A month later the police arrived, and she was eventually arrested for child pornography. She faced as many as 16 years in prison, the loss of her children, and the destruction of her life. The case attracted much local, regional, and national attention. Life must have looked grim for Cynthia at that time, but her life partner David, many friends and others in the community came together for her cause, created a legal defense fund, and recruited legal help including the ACLU of Ohio, which filed an amicus brief. Offers of help came in from across the nation, and in the end, justice was served: the charges were dropped.
A warm reception was held afterwards at the Black River Cafe – no tea served, if you know what I mean, and I think you do…
We must vigilantly defend our own and other’s civil liberties, and we must always take the dialog away from those who find human sexuality inherently wrong, or, as they might say, evil.
The book is published by The New Press, and is an enlightening, entertaining, and inspiring experience.
Four years ago, I was also in a packed crowd in a church – The Civic – in Cleveland Hts. The occasion that Nov 4 was a big political rally, and the pastor observed how painful it was to have that many people in his church and not take a collection! After an out of town speaker captivated the audience, Sherrod Brown – about to be elected to the Senate – looked back as he strolled to the podium and said “He’s going somewhere!” Indeed: two years later to the day, Barrack Obama was elected President of the United States. Both his victory and Cynthia’s were achieved the same way: by many people coming together to work for a result in which they deeply believed.