Ohio Town Gets Religion, Officially Proclaims ‘Pornography Awareness Week’

b&w street scene, Times Square, New York, circa 1981-82; photo by Vaticanus via Flickr
Artist conception: Street scene in Shelby, Ohio (apologies to Vaticanus via Flickr [cropped to horizontal])
Falling victim to the alarmist ravings of the group formerly known as Morality in Media, the city of Shelby, Ohio, officially proclaims "Pornography Awareness Week"

If you’re like most Americans, the holiday you most closely associate with the end of October is Halloween. Not so the purity-minded folks at the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, who faithfully commemorate Pornography Awareness Week. And this year, the city of Shelby, Ohio, observed it too, the First Amendment be damned.

When Shelby’s city council convened on Monday, November 5, 2018, Mayor Steven Schag made it official with a proclamation, which he read aloud.

Schag traced the proclamation’s roots to 2015, when pastors from 66 congregations throughout Richland County “called for a day of prayer, fasting, and repentance from sins of immorality, including the use of pornography.”

A smaller delegation reportedly attended the mayor’s reading of the proclamation.

WMFD.com screenshot of Steven Schag, mayor of Shelby, Ohio, reading aloud a proclamation
Mayor Steven Schag makes Pornography Awareness Week official in Shelby, Ohio (screenshot via WMFD.com)

Pornography Awareness Week itself is said to date back to 1987, when a Pennsylvania woman, Norma Norris, was moved to instigate the White Ribbon Against Pornography (WRAP) campaign after being inspired by an anti-porn sermon delivered by her Catholic parish’s monsignor. These days the campaign’s flag is flown most conspicuously by the aforementioned National Center on Sexual Exploitation, which some may more readily recognize by its former moniker, Morality in Media. (The nonprofit rechristened itself in 2015.)

After Schag finished his recitation, Rev. Kevin Evans of Ganges Liberty Baptist Church, spoke, asserting that a “porn pandemic” is partly to blame for “the breakdown of the family, sex trafficking, prostitution, and violence against women.”

Reverend Evans didn’t stop there.

“People just don’t seem to get it,” local website WMFD.com quoted Evans as saying. “There is something terribly wrong when the right to promote something, without censorship, under the guise of free speech, has the ability to enslave our lives and jeopardize our liberties. It contaminates and pollutes our society. It further contaminates and pollutes the minds and the lives of our young folks from being able to enjoy their God-given gift of pure sexual gratification through the institution of marriage between a man and a woman.”

The Richland Source quoted another man of the cloth who was in attendance.

“Statistics show that rape rates are highest where laws governing pornography are least restrictive,” imparted Rev. Walter Keib of Shelby First Baptist. “As a husband of forty-eight years, I have seen people in the church delivered from this heinous addiction.”

Notwithstanding the credulous coverage, not everyone is convinced that porn is a scourge that drives men to commit sex crimes.

In a piece published in Psychology Today in 2016, San Francisco-based journalist Michael Castleman laid out a convincing case that the consumption of pornography correlates with a decline in sexual assaults.

“If the anti-porn activists are correct, if porn actually contributes to rape, then starting around 1999 as the Internet made it much more easily available, the rate of sexual assault should have increased,” wrote Castleman. “So what happened? According to the Justice Department’s authoritative National Crime Victimization Survey, since 1995, the U.S. sexual assault rate has fallen 44 percent.”

Castleman also pointed to research regarding the Czech Republic, which outlawed all pornography while under Communist rule, then rescinded the prohibition as part of a series of reforms after the regime collapsed in 1989.

“Using Czech police records, American and Czech researchers compared rape rates in the Czech Republic for the 17 years before porn was legalized with rates during the 18 years after,” Castleman recounted. “Rapes decreased from 800 a year to 500. More porn, less rape.”

That said, it seems likely that the 9,000 citizens of Shelby do have at least one pervert in their midst.

On November 1, federal authorities charged Shelby resident Thomas Close with sexual exploitation of children and receiving and distributing child pornography. Close, who’s 39, volunteered as a Boy Scout troop leader. According to an affidavit filed with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, investigators were tipped off that someone was making surreptitious videos of young boys as they changed clothes.

From a U.S. Department of Justice press release:

“A review of several videos revealed they were recorded at the YMCA facility in Sandusky, which sometimes rented its pool to the Boy Scouts, inside teepees used at the Firelands Scout Reservation in Wakeman, as well as inside the bathroom of a home that appeared to have a swimming pool.”

About Tom Finkel

Skeptical about nearly everything but my rights and responsibilities. Former editor-in-chief at Village Voice, Riverfront Times, & City Pages. Before that, Miami New Times. Interested human being.

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