- Supports groups that promote, or test the limits of, First Amendment freedom of speech rights, particularly with regard to human sexuality
- Funds projects that promote taxpayer-funded abortion-on-demand, racial preferences, radical feminist and homosexual agendas, and special rights for people with HIV/AIDS
Established in 1965 by Hugh Hefner, the Playboy Foundation seeks "to foster social change by confining its grants ... to projects ... fostering open communication about, and research into, human sexuality, reproductive health and rights; protecting and fostering civil rights and civil liberties in the United States for all people, including women, people affected and impacted by HIV/AIDS, gays and lesbians, racial minorities, the poor and the disadvantaged; and eliminating censorship and protecting freedom of expression." The Foundation makes it explicitly clear that it "will not consider religious programs" as potential grantees, and its grants are generally in the $5,000 to $10,000 range. Since its inception, the Playboy Foundation has awarded $20,000,000 in grants.
Reasoning from the premise that women and homosexuals face severe discrimination in the workplace, the Playboy Foundation embraces agendas that seek to remedy this situation by means of expanded government intervention, new legislation, and an overhaul of traditional social norms. For example, the Foundation endorses the right to unrestricted, taxpayer-funded abortion-on-demand for all women; calls for taxpayers to bear an ever-increasing share of the financial burden of the gay community's AIDS scourge; seeks to redefine the family by encouraging homosexual marriages, not just civil unions; and supports the rights of homosexuals to adopt children, serve openly in the U.S. military, and become Scout troop leaders.
In 1993 the Playboy Foundation established its Freedom of Expression Award at the Sundance Film Festival, to honor documentary films that it believes best educate the public on issues of social concern. A large proportion of the films that receive this award portray their protagonists as victims of America's allegedly pervasive injustice and/or intolerance. Recent winners have included films dealing with what the Playboy Foundation describes as: “the agonizing psychological and physical survival of long-term [Communist] North Korean political prisoners in detention in [U.S.-allied] South Korea, and their quest to return home”; “a writing group led by playwright and activist Eve Ensler at the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility”; “the anti-gay policies of the Boy Scouts” which currently bar homosexuals from becoming scoutmasters; “a group of people who left Manhattan's drug-ravaged homeless shelter system and built a makeshift ... community in a subterranean tunnel”; “the … impact on the school of California's Proposition 187, which [eliminated] education and health benefits for illegal immigrants”; “how Hollywood has both reflected and defined the way we think about homosexuals”; and a “video diary of two longtime gay companions from the time they discover they are HIV-positive until their deaths from AIDS.”
The Playboy Foundation also helps finance the world's largest annual gay and lesbian film festival in San Francisco, and has recently funded the production of documentaries about such topics as: anti-gay violence; a man dying of AIDS; the struggles of New York City street vendors; a homeless man who lives in a cardboard box; the evils of the death penalty; the relationship between race and the death penalty”; "the lives of men and women [who] narrowly escaped execution”; white supremacist organizations in the U.S.; the RU-486 abortion pill; the virtues of radical environmentalism; issues confronting illegal Mexican immigrants to the United States; "what it's like to grow up with gay and lesbian parents”; “a physician and gynecologist [who] fights the merger of a Catholic hospital and the implications it has on abortion”; “the warring values between religious fundamentalist families and their gay or lesbian children”; “black identity issues in the USA, Brazil and Africa”; “the brutal murder of [Emmett] Till, a 14-year old African American who allegedly whistled at a white woman while visiting relatives in Mississippi in 1955”; the life and times of historian Howard Zinn; America’s “War on Homosexuality”; "the long-term effects” of the 1979 nuclear accident at Three Mile Island; “the critical issues of race and class surrounding the effort to bring diversity to public schools”; and “a young high-school girl in Lubbock, Texas who is fighting abstinence-only sex education."
In 1979 the Playboy Foundation established the Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Awards “to honor individuals who have made significant contributions in the vital effort to protect and enhance First Amendment rights for Americans.” Nominees have traditionally come from the areas of print and broadcast journalism, arts and entertainment, education, publishing, law, and government. They are honored at an annual ceremony where they are presented with a cash award of $5,000 and a commemorative plaque. Recent winners include: Trina Magi, a member of the American Library Association "who ... organized a grassroots campaign to amend Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act, which undermines Americans’ right to read and access information without governmental intrusion or interference"; Linda Ramsdell, "who, as owner of Galaxy Bookshop and president of the New England Booksellers Association, organized a grassroots campaign to amend Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act that threatens the free marketplace of ideas and undercuts democracy"; David Cole, "who, as a constitutional law scholar and professor of Law at Georgetown University Law Center ... educated the public about the discriminatory and abusive treatment of non-citizens in the wake of 9/11 and the PATRIOT Act"; Nate Blakeslee, "who, as a reporter for the Texas Observer ... forced the issue of racial and economic disparity in drug sentencing into the national spotlight, and educated the public about much needed judicial reforms"; Steven Aftergood, "a senior research analyst at the Federation of American Scientists … [who] works to reduce the scope of government secrecy, to accelerate the declassification of cold war documents, and promote reform of official secrecy practices and public oversight"; and Bill Maher, "who, as host of Politically Incorrect, spoke out at a time when Americans were being encouraged to abandon the Bill of Rights in exchange for the false comfort of 'national security.'"
(Information on grantees and monetary amounts courtesy of The Foundation Center, GuideStar, ActivistCash, the Capital Research Center and Undue Influence)