Legislation is needed to protect children from exploitation by pornographers, and the federal government should play a more substantial role in combatting the multibillion-dollar obscenity industry, an LDS leader told a congressional subcommittee Thursday.
Elder John K. Carmack of the First Quorum of the Seventy, The Churchof Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, testified before the House Judiciary Committee's subcommittee on crime.Elder Carmack, who also is a member of the steering committee of the Religious Alliance Against Pornography, an organization of churches alarmed by the spread of child pornography and hard-core obscenity, urged congressional approval of the proposed Child Protection and Obscenity Enforcement Act of 1988.
He said the LDS Church and the alliance wholeheartedly support the First Amendment. But he said the U.S. Supreme Court has clearly held that the First Amendment does not protect obscenity, making it possible to prosecute criminals who violate the law.
"We believe all pornography is morally wrong, but especially so-called hard-core pornography. Hard-core pornography is so wrong that anyone who can stomach a look at it, or who walks down a Los Angeles or New York street where it is readily available on a marquee or displayed for sale, can feel a sense of outrage and revulsion.
"We do not believe it is essential to prove a casual relationship between the production, distribution and use of this material, and harm to children, women and men," Elder Carmack said. "One just knows that garbage and sewage on the streets and in contact with humans is destructive of good physical health and that moral garbage created, distributed and used by humans is destructive of the morality of the community."
The use of obscenity desensitizes its users, increasing the likelihood of male aggressiveness against women and children. It also decreases both male and female sensitivity to rape and the plight of the rape victim, Elder Carmack said.
The church official cited the role of government in protecting those least able to protect themselves. And he mentioned efforts of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and plans of the U.S. attorney general for Southern California in setting up a special task force to prosecute pornography distributors.
"I mention Los Angeles because that is the site for the production of 80 percent of this material. Since a nationwide business has grown up, however, we need your help on the national level to sharpen the tools for the battle," said Elder Carmack, who observed that federal tools are now inadequate to prosecute such activity.
In its most insidious form, he said pornography exploits, abuses and humiliates children, who are being pulled into a nationwide computer network of child molesters, pedophiles and collectors of child pornography.
Elder Carmack said the federal act is designed to protect children from exploitation and to require record keeping, which would make prosecution easier against pornography producers, distributors and retailers.
The federal law also makes it unlawful for even a parent to use a child in producing pornography. It prohibits exchange of information concerning child pornography through computer networks and allows forfeiture of property by those producing, distributing and retailing such materials.