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Protecting Our Children
What Can We Do to Create a Child-Appropriate Community?
By JoAnn Hibbert Hamilton
I used to think that there was nothing that could be done as more and more sexual material in the form of magazines and posters moved into our community. There is actually a lot that we can do.
By the way, it was a surprise to me one time when I asked Dr. John Harmer, an attorney who worked against pornography in California for 36 years, why we had pornography openly displayed on magazine covers in our community. He said, “It's here because we let it in.”
Let me explain. In the 1986 Final Report of the Attorney General's Commission on Pornography, p. 71, we are told that as a First Amendment right, materials can come into communities that are not good for the community. However, citizens have the right to speak out on the matter, and by doing so, they can, as consumers, reject these materials. The commission report stated: “to keep quiet is to approve.” It goes on to say, “Moreover, communities are made by what people say and do, by what people approve and what people disapprove, and by what people tolerate and what people reject. For communities, and for the sense of community, community acceptance and community condemnation are central to what a community is.”
The Commission also previously said, “To the extent that citizens have concerns about the kinds of sexually explicit material that are available in contemporary America, they should not only recognize that the First Amendment protects and encourages their right to express these concerns loudly and often, but should as well appreciate the fact that in many aspects of our lives to keep quiet is to approve.”
Every city can have its own community standard. This can vary from community to community in any state. We, Citizens for Families – Coalition for Community Standards, a non-profit organization of which I am president, decided that we wanted our city to have a community standard that was child-appropriate. We started to educate people about the harm being done to children because of the sexual magazines often displayed in grocery store checkout lanes. We used my book, “ To Strengthen the Family,” my CD, “Who Will Speak for the Children,” and a pamphlet, “Who Will Speak for the Children,” which can be seen on my website, www.strengthenthefamily.net. (The other items are available on my web site. Proceeds go to our non-profit organization.)
Next, we approached one city council member in our city and explained our desire to establish a child-appropriate community standard and our desire for the city council to pass a resolution stating its support of a child-appropriate community. Our city councilman, John Pitt, talked to the other city council members about this and he put our organization, Citizens for Families, on the agenda of a city council meeting. I did a short presentation at the city council meeting about the affect sexual images have on children. As a result, a resolution was passed by the city. A resolution is not a law, but it is a statement of policy. A copy of this can be found on my web site under the section, “How to build a model city.”
We put some signs in private yards, a copy of which you can pull up on my web site, and we put some flyers of the same sign in windows of homes. Then, 265 businessmen signed a form stating that they wanted a child-appropriate community and we gathered other names of citizens who felt the same way.
Next, we focused on two stores at a time. Once we had signatures, we told storeowners and managers that we had them, showed them a copy of our city resolution, and explained our desire to establish a child-appropriate community standard. Then we asked them to cover those posters and magazines that were not child-appropriate so they could help us establish this community standard.
We encouraged citizens to politely stop at the service desk of these stores and ask for covers for the magazines that were “inappropriate for children to see.” It is best to avoid using the term “pornography” because everyone argues about what is pornography; however everyone seems to know what is inappropriate for children. If anyone asks, I just answer, “Whatever you think is inappropriate for a six- or seven-year-old boy to read and see.” On my web site under “Speak Out,” I've posted a list of some of the stores that have made changes to become child-appropriate. Nearly all of our stores are now child-appropriate, a drastic change from a couple of years ago.
As each store became child-appropriate, we coordinated with the local newspaper so the store received positive news coverage about their becoming child-appropriate. Sometimes we gave plaques, and at times we used a traveling trophy.
This is really a simple concept: the voice of the consumer matters. You are the buyers. One businessman said, “If six to eight people approach me in a two-week period of time, I make a change in my store.” How hard is that? I am aware of one woman who went to five stores in one week and politely talked to the manager about putting covers over magazines that were sexual in nature and all five ordered the covers! Other stores may need more encouragement. Sometimes we have written letters and sent them up the corporate ladder.
To follow through, we need to encourage people to shop in the family-friendly stores, especially those who have made efforts to cover inappropriate materials. We need to thank the stores for the covers at by going to service desks and by filling out customer comment cards. This keeps the covers on because the store manager is aware that you care.
It is important to know that most of the magazines with plunging necklines and/or sexual subtitles are illegal according to the Harmful to Minors Law, sometimes called the Indecent Public Display law. Because we have not enforced that law in the past, law enforcement is hesitant to become involved. If we can swing our community standard back to one that is appropriate for children, it will be possible for law enforcement to work with us. A copy of the national law is on my web site under Articles about Pornography. If we don't swing back to decency, we will soon find obscenity, group sex, and all kinds of perversions on our billboards and in our checkout lines. The Harmful to Minors law becomes moot and unenforceable if it is ignored. We need to reverse this trend.
Two other articles on my web site that I recommend are “Redefining Community Standards,” by Frank Mylar, and, “Have you Seen Any Indecent Public Displays Lately?” by Jim Olson.
Citizen action has brought our community closer to becoming child-appropriate. You can do it, too.
Please help us by going on our web site and joining our list of members. Then we can count you as one more person who wants everything that is inappropriate for children kept out of the sight of children.
Copyright 2007 - 2011, JoAnn Hibbert Hamilton