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Redefining Community Standards

The Newquist Journal, Fall 1999

Redefining Community Standards

By Frank D. Mylar

Frank D. Mylar, J.D., M.B.A., has litigated hundreds of civil rights cases, some at the U.S. and Utah Supreme Court levels. He consults, instructs and writes articles for local and national law enforcement agencies. He has worked as an assistant attorney general, and he is dedicated to electing a conservative attorney general in Utah.

No one can deny that society is saturated with sex in movies, magazines, music, schools, libraries and everywhere we go. It is equally acknowledged that what was considered "hard-core" porn 20 years ago is barely considered "soft-core" porn today.

What most people do not realize, however, is that all of us must acknowledge fault in unknowingly hastening the moral decay of our communities in the area of pornography. Mistakenly, we have become reticent to assert our personal and religious beliefs against the increasing blatant filth that fills our communities under the false impression that religious beliefs must be subservient to the freedoms of speech and "artistic expression" of the multimillion-dollar pornography industry.

Meanwhile, the "entertainment industry" pushes beyond each new barrier, making sex more graphic and pervasive for all ages.

The law does not mandate such bashfulness or complacency but rather encourages us to express our opposition to all forms of pornography. The U. S. Supreme Court ruled years ago that obscenity is defined by community standards of decency. Prior to that decision, the Court ruled that First Amendment speech rights possessed by adults are not available to children in the pornography context. The Supreme Court continues to uphold the ability of of cities to literally regulate to death sexually oriented businesses. These cases are still applicable today, yet little is being done to take advantage of these laws in Utah because of the mistaken belief that we are "imposing our religious beliefs" if we stand against pornography.

Our lack of understanding on the need to assert our beliefs, together with apathy and desensitization of the average citizen, has given the pornography industry free reign to push the limits of "obscenity." In the 1960s, the Smothers Brothers Show was kicked off television when they told one sexual joke. Even in the late 1970s a radio or television broadcaster could lose a Federal Communications Commission license for the mere use of profanity or sexual speech. Today, by contrast, "shock jocks" like Howard Stern are some of the most popular radio personalities because of their vulgar themes and speech. Utah, like other states, has its own set of D.J.s who similarly push the limits far beyond moral decency.

The same decay on the air waves has occurred in all aspects of public life, and Utah is not immune. Many libraries in Utah have adopted the American Library Association's policy that encourages minors to have full access to all "adult" materials. This policy originated from the U. N. Treaty on the Rights of the Child. Although this treaty has not been ratified by the Senate as required to become binding law, many government organizations, including public libraries, have implemented it as policy without a vote and without the public's knowledge. Such policies, however, almost always violate criminal laws against exposing minors to harmful materials, yet no one enforces the laws, largely because no one speaks up.

It is time for all of us to speak out on this issue in several ways. With thousands of new families moving to Utah each year we are at a now-or-never crossroads; either good people start exercising their legal rights by voicing their objections, or the pornography industry will literally have its way with our children and loved ones. One way to stem teh pornography tide is to regulate to death sexually oriented businesses (SOBs). Several cities across the country have enacted criminal ordinances, based on Supreme Court precedent, which effectively regulates SOBs to death. Every town in Utah can and should follow suit. However, without competent legal guidance and leadership, well-meaning ordinances will die in the courts.

Currently there is a disturbing vacuum of prosecutorial leadership in Utah and across the country among attorneys general that must be addressed at the polls. Good laws offer no benefit if we do not have a warrior attorney to passionately defend them.

All like-minded citizens must begin today to respectfully voice their extreme displeasure for pornography on all fronts. We must begin with our daily environment. Check your public libraries and serve written disapproval of pornography. Legal action can be threatened if any minors have access to any sexually explicit materials, including books discussing homosexual behaviors, which are currently a popular topic.

Write to local television stations and object to airing moving with sex scenes, including The Titanic. Object to the sale of pornography in bookstores and convenience stores. Years ago, a city of 56,000 in Illinois, where I went to college, succeeded in ridding all 7-11s of pornography because of complaints from residents. Recently I voiced disapproval of an article in a magazine at a doctor's office. We need to object when condoms are passed out to our children at government expense. We need to confront music stores that sell CDs with sexually explicit lyrics, and threaten legal action when such CDs are made available to minors. We simply need to raise our objections in a respectful manner every day and turn the clock back to the accepted standards of the 1950s, when the television dared not show Elvis Presley below the waist or show even married couples sleeping in the same bed.

We need to get in the habit of objecting respectfully, but firmly, to the steady advance of pornography in a society with an increasing preoccupation with immoral sexual activity and entertainment. Remember, we define by our tolerance community standards of decency.

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