NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–The influx of pornography and strip bars into American society can be stopped, a community values activist told a conference for state convention workers at the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission in Nashville, Tenn.
Hardcore pornography is not protected by the First Amendment, said Phil Burress of Citizens for Community Values. “In Miller v. California in 1973, the United States Supreme Court said that every community is allowed to apply their own community standards.”
In 45 of the 50 states, Burress said, strong laws are on the books that outlaw hardcore pornography, which involves actual or simulated sexual activity. The problem is, the laws are not being enforced, he noted.
“Hardcore pornography is what is being sold in the backroom of video stores and in hotel rooms today,” he said. “The question is, ‘Will the prosecutor prosecute?’”
Burress said the sale of hardcore pornography is a felony in five states and people in Ohio actually have gone to jail for selling it.
Soft-core pornography, which involves nudity without actual or simulated sexual activity, requires a little different approach, Burress said, but the battle over both soft-core and hardcore pornography must begin with citizen action rather than legal action.
“When we began the campaign in Cincinnati 95 percent of 2,800 [convenience] stores in greater Cincinnati were selling some kind of pornography,” he said. “We started a campaign to tell our parishioners and everyone not to shop in stores that sell pornography.”
He said citizens began telling store operators that they would go elsewhere if they continued to sell pornography, and within 10 years only 5 percent of such businesses in greater Cincinnati sold pornography of either the hardcore or soft-core varieties.
Burress’ wife Vickie, who also works with Citizens for Community Values, gave a heart-rending assessment of the typical “exotic dancer” who works in a strip club: The vast majority were sexually abused as children and are seeking male affirmation, she said. “They are victims of a sex-saturated society.”
Many of the girls are seduced into the business by male club owners who promise them a lot of money, drugs and alcohol.
“A lot of them go into a club working as waitresses thinking, ‘These people love me -– they wouldn’t have me dance.’ They’re seeking family, something they didn’t have at home.” Vickie Burress said. “Through drugs and alcohol they lose their inhibitions and get up on the stage.”
Once they’re in the business, she said the girls end up being trapped by club owners through shady financial arrangements and manipulation.
“According to the girls that we have worked with, there is not a strip bar in the country that operates legally,” she said. “They all have prostitution going on in the back room, there’s drugs going on inside, big-time gambling.”
Burress said women in ministries across the country have begun to befriend dancers and share the Gospel with them by providing assistance to them and offering to help free them from their lifestyle.
“It’s somebody’s little girl on that stage,” she said. “They need a lot of help, a lot of sexual abuse counseling and drug abuse counseling.”
She said churches need to be sensitive when former dancers come to their church in “spike heels and a miniskirt.”
“That’s the life that they know. Their big issue is shame,” she said. “If you shame them when they come into your church, they will not only reject your church. They will also reject Christ.”
Phil Burress said the U.S. Supreme Court, in its 1986 Renton v. Playtime Theaters ruling, depicted sexually oriented businesses as taking an economic toll on a community.
“This takes us out of the moral argument,” he said. “When you start talking about increased crime, decreased property values and urban blight -– that takes the conversation totally out of the moral realm.”
The court’s ruling allows local authorities to regulate sexually oriented businesses such as strip bars, massage parlors and adult bookstores with zoning, licensing and other measures. Although governments cannot shut down sexually oriented business, he said regulation can have a powerful impact.
Local governments should log on to adultbusinesslaw.com for help with drafting ordinances allowable under federal law, he continued.
“In Tampa, they introduced an ordinance that said dancers couldn’t get within six feet of patrons,” he said. “That shut down half of the strip bars right there. If the women can’t touch the men, there’s no reason to be there.”
On the positive side, he said his organization has begun to find ways to enable people to make informed decisions about businesses that distribute pornography.
“I get pretty fed up with cursing the darkness all the time,” he said. His organization has surveyed hotels to determine which ones sell in-room hardcore pornography and has created a website called cleanhotels.com.
Burress said the website will allow those opposed to the sale of hardcore pornography to reward businesses that share their values and get the attention of those hotels and chains that continue to sell it.
“Frankly, what the business understands is money,” he said. “They make about $2.50 for every porn movie they sell, but if they lose a room sale, they’ll notice that.”
Burress, a self-described former pornography addict, has been with Citizens for Community Values since its founding in 1983. Before joining CCV, he was an over-the-road truck driver, owner of a landscaping and irrigation company and a union representative for the Brotherhood of Railway and Airline Clerks.
Burress was instrumental in securing passage of a ban on same-sex “marriage” in Ohio in 2004.