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For week ended March 19, 2000 Posted 24 Feb 2001
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News about Mormons, Mormonism,
and the LDS Church
Sent on Mormon-News: 17Mar00

Summarized by Kent Larsen

Utah adding pornography czar
Boston Globe (AP) 17Mar00 D6
By Hannah Wolfson, Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH -- A new Utah state law expected to be signed today by Governor Mike Leavitt will create the first pornography 'czar' in the United States. While the position has little prosecutorial power and no ability to change materials that come from out-of-state like the Internet or cable television, the person that fills the position, the obscenity and pornography complaints ombudsman, a deputy state attorney general, is expected to define and help "restrict, suppress or eliminate" pornography.

The issue has been an important one in Utah, in part because 70% of its residents are LDS Church members. And it has been debated intensely, and even prosecuted. In the past year an adult video store in Utah County was prosecuted in a high-profile case.

But observers claim that pornography is actually difficult to find in Utah. The adult bookstore most widely advertised in Salt Lake City is actually in Evanston, Wyoming, an hour's drive to the east. Utah ACLU chapter director Carol Gnade says, ''The irony of all this is that there have not been that many pornography cases lately. This seems to be a solution without a problem.''

Both nationally and in Utah, prosecution of pornography, like all crimes, has actually fallen. But observers say that the proliferation of pornography on the Internet has stimulated interest in regulating it. And many observers say that the position is largely symbolic because of its limited powers. Jurisdictional issues keep the state from regulating Internet or Cable pornography. Instead the ombudsman will define Utah's obscenity law, advice local and municipal governments about the law and arbitrate problems when they arise. The position may also prosecute in some circumstances.

But legislators and lobbyists say that the people of Utah are asking for government to attack pornography, ''I felt there's a lot of people who wanted to do something but didn't know where to turn,'' says Republican state Rep. Evan L. Olsen, the sponsor of the legislation. Gayle Ruzicka, the chairwoman of the ultra-conservative Utah Eagle Forum which supported the legislation says, ''It's time to say what's happening here. Pornography has suddenly become a huge, huge business beyond anything we ever imagined and it's as addictive as drugs. People are asking for help.'' And Governor Leavitt says this is worth trying, "If a state legislature is looking for a way to improve the world, this is not an illogical way to strike a blow. Time will tell if it's a good use of state money. But to me, there is no harm in trying."

While Utah is the first to have a general pornography czar, other states, including California and New York, have czars or teams responsible for fighting child pornography. And Joan Bertin, the executive director of the National Coalition Against Censorship, says she thinks other states may jump on the bandwagon. ''There's a huge proliferation of entertainment that is more sexually explicit than ever before. So there's really both a loosening and a tightening at once, and I suppose that's to be expected.''

See Also:

Utah to establish anti-porn advisory office
San Jose CA Mercury News (New York Times) 16Mar00 D6
By Michael Janofsky: New York Times


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Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 Kent Larsen · Privacy Information