The Legion of Decency Pledge (USA, 1934)

The first draft of the Legion of Decency pledge was written by Archbishop of Cincinnati John McNicholas in 1933. The final version, printed here, was ratified by the Legion in 1938, and the pledge was taken each year on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, on December 8. The Legion rated films as either A (morally unobjectionable), B (morally objectionable in part), or C (condemned by the Legion of Decency). Viewing condemned films endangered one’s eternal soul. The most critical blow against this system came with the court cases surrounding Rossellini’s “Il miracolo,” the first half of his omnibus film L’amore (Italy, 1948), which screened in the United States in 1950. In 1952, the United States Supreme Court, in Joseph Burstyn, Inc v. Wilson, determined that a film could not be banned on the grounds of sacrilege, which all but eliminated film censorship in the USA, a major First Amendment win.