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Posted 01 Apr 2001   For week ended March 30, 2001
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Sent on Mormon-News: 28Mar01

By Mark Wright

Utah Calls on Houston for Porn Problem

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH -- Paula J. Houston, the "Obscenity and Pornography Complaints Ombudsman" for the state of Utah, is in the news again. If the early fascination with her new position provides any indication, she'd better get used to the limelight. Mormon News first reported on Houston and her new position on March 9th and this article is a follow-up. As reported earlier, Houston is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and is also a returned missionary for the Church, having served 18 months in New Zealand.

As Utah's "Porn Czar", Houston has been given a challenging assignment, balancing the state of Utah's desire to regulate potentially pornographic material and allowing legitimate expression to co-exist. The difficulty of this assignment is not lost on Houston. She notes that local officials need to be educated on how to strike the appropriate balance, within the limits of the law. Accordingly, Houston's near term objectives include assisting local municipalities and governmental organizations develop and enforce standards for controlling pornography and other adult-themed materials within the guidelines of free speech as embodied in the First Amendment.

As an active member of the Church, Houston clearly understands the tensions that exist between her personal religious views and the law of the land. "I feel sexually oriented businesses are damaging and degrading to women," she said. "But the Supreme Court allows them as legitimate businesses as long as they operate within the confines of the law and ordinances written to allow them." Houston will get an opportunity in the near future to see how well her views are accepted. Her draft proposals regarding regulating pornography and adult-oriented businesses are scheduled to be considered by the Utah State Legislature later this year.

While Houston and her new position enjoy relatively broad support from many Utahns, not everyone is excited about Houston's new calling in life. For example, Stephen C. Clark, currently serving as the legal director of the Utah office of the American Civil Liberties Union, believes that the state of Utah, is making a mistake. He believes the moral positions of the Church, and the 70% of the Utah's residents who are members of the Church, are being inappropriately forced on the other residents of the state. In Clark's opinion, "To throw the weight of the state behind a particular moral view is unnecessary at best and potentially dangerous."

Houston disputes Clark's assertions and believes that communities have the right to determine what kind of materials are available in the community. She also believes that most communities need help in this complex and volatile arena. According to Houston, "Pornography is an issue that tends to take a back seat to other issues because it's more complicated. As a prosecutor for a city or county, you deal with 100 other things and don't have time to concentrate on one issue like this." Houston knows whereof she speaks. Prior to accepting her new assignment, she worked as a West Valley City prosecutor for more than 10 years, successfully prosecuting a number of pornography-related cases.

While the rest of the country looks on, Ms. Houston clearly understands that every decision she makes will be subjected to the withering scrutiny of public opinion. "It's daunting. Everyone is watching to see how the program develops. Good or bad, they're going to be all over it." Given Ms. Houston's high profile in the media so far, that may even be an understatement.


First State Porn Czar, in Utah, Is Set to Draw a Fine Line
New York Times 24Mar01 T2
By Michael Janofsky


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