Carolyn Moynihan

Protecting children from porn

Carolyn Moynihan
By Carolyn Moynihan
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June 4, 2012 (Mercatornet.com) - How serious is the problem of pornography on the internet? Important enough to be the central issue in a rally drawing more than 40,000 ultra-Orthodox Jews to a New York baseball stadium two weekends ago. The men (it was too difficult to segregate the women, as Haredi laws require), all dressed in black suits and white shirts, filled the benches to hear pep talks about the dangers and temptations of the internet, with exhortations to use it sparingly, and then, only with effective filters.

“We’ve been retreating for years—enough! Tonight we draw a line of demarcation in the sand, tonight we begin to fight back!” said Rabbi Ephraim Wachsman in his opening “powerhouse” speech, as reported by a (sceptical, Jewish) Tablet magazine. “If one sins on the Internet, he commits an aveira [sin]; if one separates from the community [by not installing a filter], he loses his share in olam haba [the world to come]!”

Next to this show of numbers and moral fervour the report of a group of British members of parliament about the protection of children online might seem rather tame. But it has generated its own kind of drama as advocates of stronger protective measures and anti-censorship forces argue over proposals to force (if necessary) internet service providers to filter content for porn before it goes out to subscribers. You could probably fill several football stadiums with Britons who are worried about the risks of the internet for their children—if only they had rabbis to tell them, under pain of eternal retribution, to come.

Except for child abuse imagery—which the UK internet industry has agreed to block since 1996—British leaders in general, unlike the Jews at the New York event, do not attempt to deal with pornography as such. But there is enough community and expert concern about the effect of porn and other sexual material on children for David Cameron’s government to treat it as a political issue. One of his Conservative MPs, Claire Perry, chaired the cross-party group that produced last month the report of the Independent Parliamentary Inquiry into Online Child Protection. Its opening comments are worth quoting:

Since the early days of the World Wide Web, pornography has been one of the most widely available forms of internet content. Freedom from prying eyes, human imagination and zero barriers to entry have led to an explosion of pornographic creativity with every possible sexual act represented online including many that are deeply degrading, disturbing and violent. It is said that the whole history of human perversion is only a few clicks away. Unfortunately, our children, with their natural curiosity and superior technological skills are finding a viewing these images.

The group’s main finding is that the “opt out” filter systems for individual computers and devices such as tablets currently offered by Internet Service Providers benefit less than half of children in the UK. Consequently ISPs need to offer network level filtering whereby adult content will be blocked until customers “opt in”, a move that is not nearly as difficult as the industry makes out.

At present, six out of ten children in the UK can access the internet without device-level filters, and use of filters has actually declined 10 percentage points over the past three years. Parents are often less computer and internet savvy than their kids and they feel powerless in the face of rapid innovation. Many also surrender their power: in 2010, 61 per cent of 11- to 16-year-olds had access to the internet in their own rooms. Mobile phones could be playing a larger role in this, although the large phone companies mostly require age (18) verification to access porn.

Opting in has already been accepted in principle by the largest ISPs in Britain in the form of a system called Active Choice, to be rolled out by October this year. But this applies only to new customers and the companies are loath to extend it to their existing clients, even though higher level filtering is already standard in many commercial settings, schools and public Wi-Fi hubs, and the technology behind it is well advanced. The industry resistance to default blocking, says the Perry report, seems to be “ideological, not commercial”.

The ideology in question concerns free speech. The report itself begins by affirming the “core principles—almost religious tenets—of decentralisation and freedom” that underpin the internet and says it “would be anathema to see these principles compromised”. It says it would be “difficult and wrong to impose mandatory government censorship” of internet porn, but a network level opt-in system maintained by ISPs would preserve choice while giving children more protection.

To opponents—captains of the porn industry and cable TV companies included—it is still censorship. They don’t see why they should be responsible for anyone else’s children. In fact the great theme of those opposed to default filtering or ambivalent about it is the responsibility of parents. Reading their views it’s as though they have made a revolutionary discovery: children have parents who should be protecting them! Parents need to be educated about their role in this!

This is true, of course. Parents should make it their business to get the hang of filters, and go to the school information evenings about it if necessary; they should insist that there are no electronic devices in kids’ bedrooms; parents should bring up their children to have confidence in them so they can talk about bad stuff they run into; they should talk to their children about sex and prepare them, somehow, to keep their innocence in a pornified world…

And if sewage is getting into the town water supply they should ensure that they have an effective water filtering system in the house, because protecting their children’s physical health is all their job too. Isn’t it? If not, if it’s only reasonable that the town fix the water supply at source, why should the rules be so different when it comes to the mental health of children?

Furthermore, not everyone who wants to help parents deal with the problem of internet porn will be equally helpful. A record of oral evidence in the Perry report reveals an attitude among some that porn is a “rite of passage” for adolescents and that keeping them away from it only makes it more desirable. What kids need, to quote the lady from the Family Planning Association, is to have someone “contextualise” it for them—which seems to mean explaining how certain images and behaviour belong on porn sites or page 3 of the tabloids but not in real life—as part of “good quality sex and relationships education”. Somehow, one is not convinced.

Unfortunately, the anti-blockers don’t have to convince everybody; they only have to put up an argument backed by some kind of research that will give authorities an excuse to put the issue of protecting children aside. Crossing the Atlantic, we find dana boyd, described in a recent Slate article as an “academic and Microsoft researcher” (who writes her name without capitals) dismissing fears about kids and porn as a “moral panic”. She also believes that teenagers are not necessarily harmed by encountering porn; it all depends on the youngster and how well they have been prepared to deal with it. “The kids are all right,” she insists.

The research: She studied young adolescents involved in Chatroullet, a webcam conversation launched in 2009 where people talk to random strangers around the world. She reckons that when the teens did come across a flabby, bald middle-aged man … performing sexual acts their response was “Ew,” and they clicked past him. “It was the best abstinence-only education you can think of,” she joked to the interviewer. Uh, and how is this comparable to teens watching a hardcore porn film for hours on end?

Boyd (sorry, Microsoft just capitalised that) is right that young people need to be prepared to deal with porn if they run into it; she is even correct, as reported, that a parent needs “to create the kid who can handle the internet without you” and that “they can’t become that kid if you are watching them all the time” (as if any parent did). But by “dealing with porn” she does not mean running straight away from it. No, she means looking at it critically and “interrogating” it—“contextualising” it, perhaps. And her alternative to not being hovered over all the time by an anxious parent is for that parent to let them roam totally free on the net, free to take calculated risks with the content they encounter. This approach severely underestimates the power of imagery to stay in the mind and the well-documented addictiveness of porn. It also grossly overestimates the ability of the adolescent to manage “risk” and to resist the sexual drive when strong temptation and privacy are combined.

This week a 14-year-old boy appeared in the High Court in Edinburgh charged with raping and sexually assaulting a nine-year-old girl when he was only 12. His defence counsel said the boy at that age already had unfettered access to the internet and copied something he saw in a porn film. Pornography was discussed by first year students at secondary school, said the lawyer. “There is a real risk that young people of the current generation of teenagers are growing up with a skewed view of what sex is and sexual activity.”

It’s a tragic episode that makes the fulminations of the rabbis at Queens’ Citi Field against the internet begin to sound reasonable. As for the network filtering recommended by the British MPs, that is the least a society that calls itself civilised can do.

Carolyn Moynihan is deputy editor of MercatorNet. This article reprinted with permission from Mercatornet under a Creative Commons license.

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Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signs the state's Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
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Indiana faces backlash as it becomes 20th state to protect religious liberty

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By Ben Johnson

INDIANAPOLIS, IN, March 27, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – On Thursday, Indiana became the 20th state to prevent the government from forcing people of faith to violate their religious beliefs in business or the public square.

Gov. Mike Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (SB 101) into law, saying the freedom of religion is a preeminent American value.

“The Constitution of the United States and the Indiana Constitution both provide strong recognition of the freedom of religion, but today, many people of faith feel their religious liberty is under attack by government action,” Pence said.

Gov. Pence, a possible dark horse candidate for president in 2016, cited court cases brought by religious organizations and employers, including Catholic universities, against the HHS mandate. “One need look no further than the recent litigation concerning the Affordable Care Act. A private business and our own University of Notre Dame had to file lawsuits challenging provisions that required them to offer insurance coverage in violation of their religious views.”

The new law could also prevent Christian business owners from being compelled to bake a cake or take photographs of a same-sex "marriage" ceremony, if doing so violates their faith. In recent years, business owners have seen an increased level of prosecution for denying such services, despite their religious and moral beliefs.

The state's pro-life organization applauded Pence for his stance. "Indiana's pro-life community is grateful to Gov. Mike Pence for signing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law,” said Indiana Right to Life's president and CEO Mike Fichter. “This bill will give pro-lifers a necessary legal recourse if they are pressured to support abortion against their deeply-held religious beliefs.”

“RFRA is an important bill to protect the religious freedom of Hoosiers who believe the right to life comes from God, not government,” he said.

The state RFRA is based on the federal bill introduced by Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-NY, and signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1993. The Supreme Court cited the federal law when it ruled that Hobby Lobby had the right to refuse to fund abortion-inducing drugs, if doing so violated its owners' sincerely held religious beliefs.

In signing the measure – similar to the one Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed – Pence and the state of Indiana have faced a torrent of venom from opponents of the bill, who claim it grants a “right to discriminate” and raises the spectre of segregation.

"They've basically said, as long as your religion tells you to, it's OK to discriminate against people," said Sarah Warbelow, legal director of the Human Rights Campaign, a national homosexual pressure group.

The Disciples of Christ, a liberal Protestant denomination based in the state capital, has said it will move its 2017 annual convention if the RFRA became state law. The NCAA warned the bill's adoption “might affect future events” in the Hoosier state.

Pence denied such concerns, saying, "This bill is not about discrimination, and if I thought it legalized discrimination in any way I would've vetoed it."

The bill's supporters say that, under the Obama administration, it is Christians who are most likely to suffer discrimination.

"Originally RFRA laws were intended to protect small religious groups from undue burdens on practicing their faith in public life,” said Mark Tooley, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy. “It was not imagined there would come a day when laws might seek to jail or financially destroy nuns, rabbis or Christian camp counselors who prefer to abstain from the next wave of sexual and gender experimentation. And there's always a next wave.”

The bill's supporters note that it does not end the government's right to coerce people of faith into violating their conscience in every situation. However, it requires that doing so has to serve a compelling government interest and the government must use the least restrictive means possible. “There will be times when a state or federal government can show it has a compelling reason for burdening religious expression – to ensure public safety, for instance,” said Sarah Torre, an expert at the Heritage Foundation. “But Religious Freedom Restoration Acts set a high bar for the government to meet in order to restrict religious freedom.”

Restricting the ability of government to interfere in people's private decisions, especially their religious decisions, is the very purpose of the Constitution, its supporters say.

"Religious freedom is the cornerstone of all liberty for all people,” Tooley said. “Deny or reduce it, and there are no ultimate limits on the state's power to coerce."

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Fight pornography. Beat pornography. And join the ranks of those who support their fellow men and women still fighting.
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Porn is transforming our men from protectors into predators. Fight back.

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By Jonathon van Maren

Since I’ve gotten involved in anti-pornography work, I’ve met countless men who struggle, fight, or have beaten pornography. Each person seems to deal with the guilt and shame that accompanies porn use in a different way—some deny that it’s “all that bad,” others pretend that they could “stop whenever they want,” many insist that “everyone is doing it,” and most, when pressed, admit to a deep sense of self-loathing.

One worry surfaces often in conversation: What do my past or current struggles with pornography say about me as a man? Can I ever move past this and have a meaningful and fulfilling relationship?

I want to address this question just briefly, since I’ve encountered it so many times.

First, however, I’ve written before how I at times dislike the language of “struggling” with pornography or pornography “addiction,” not because they aren’t accurate but because too often they are used as an excuse rather than an explanation. It is true, many do in fact “struggle” with what can legitimately be considered an addiction, but when this language is used to describe an interminable battle with no end (and I’ve met dozens of men for whom this is the case), then I prefer we use terminology like “fighting my porn habit.” A semantic debate, certainly, but one I think is important. We need to stop struggling with porn and start fighting it.

Secondly, pornography does do devastating things to one’s sense of masculinity. We know this. Pornography enslaves men by the millions, perverting their role as protector and defender of the more vulnerable and turning them into sexual cannibals, consuming those they see on-screen to satisfy their sexual appetites.

What often starts as mere curiosity or an accidental encounter can turn into something that invades the mind and twists even the most basic attractions. I’ve met porn users who can’t believe the types of things they want to watch. They haven’t simply been using porn. Porn has actively reshaped them into something they don’t recognize and don’t like. 

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Porn is this generation’s great assault on masculinity and the role of men in society. It is essential that we win this battle for the sake of society’s survival. Contrary to what the gender-bending and family-morphing progressive elites claim, good husbands and good fathers and good church leaders are necessary for a healthy society. But pornography is destroying marriages, creating distant and disconnected fathers, and, metaphoricaclly castrating men, hindering their ability and desire to make a positive difference in the society around us.

So, with this sobering set of facts in mind let’s return to the question: what do pornography struggles, past and present, say about a man?

The proper way to respond is with everything that is good about masculinity. We have to fight pornography as men have fought countless evils throughout the ages. We need to fight pornography to protect women, and wives, and children, and our society at large. This is how pornography threatens society, by castrating men, and turning them from protectors into predators. Rooting out the evil in our own lives allows us to better fulfill the role we are called to perform in the lives of others. Battling our own demons enables us to battle the wider cultural demons. Every day without porn is another bit of virtue built. Virtue is not something you’re born with. Virtues are habits that you build. And one day without porn is the first step towards the virtue of being porn-free.

Many men ask me if men who have had past porn addictions are cut out for being in a relationship or working in the pro-life movement or in other areas where we are called to protect and defend the weak and vulnerable. And the answer to that is an unequivocal yes. Our society needs men who know what it means to fight battles and win. Our society needs men who can say that they fought porn and they beat porn, because their families and their friends were too important to risk. Our society needs men who rose to the challenge that the evils of their generation threw at them, and became better men as the result. And our society needs men who can help their friends and their sons and those around them fight the plague of pornography and free themselves from it, too—and who can understand better and offer encouragement more relevant than someone who has fought and been freed themselves?

So the answer to men is yes. Fight pornography. Beat pornography. And join the ranks of those who support their fellow men and women still fighting. Lend them support and encouragement. We cannot change the fact that porn has left an enormous path of destruction in its wake. But we can change the fact that too many people aren’t fighting it. We can change our own involvement. And we can rise to the challenge and face this threat to masculinity with all that is good about masculinity.

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Red Alert!

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By John-Henry Westen

I don’t like having to do this, but we have always found it best to be totally upfront with our readers: our Spring fundraising campaign is now worrying us! 

You see, with just 6 days remaining, we have only raised 30% of our goal, with $125,000 still left to raise. That is a long ways to go yet.

We have no choice but to reach our minimum goal of $175,000 if we are going to be able to continue serving the 5+ million readers who rely on us every month for investigative and groundbreaking news reports on life, faith and family issues.

Every year, LifeSite readership continues to grow by leaps and bounds. This year, we are again experiencing record-breaking interest, with over 6 million people visiting our website last month alone!

This unprecedented growth in turn creates its own demand for increased staff and resources, as we struggle to serve these millions of new readers.

And especially keep this in mind. As many more people read LifeSite, our mission of bringing about cultural change gets boosted. Our ultimate goal has always been to educate and activate the public to take well-informed, needed actions.

Another upside to our huge growth in readers is that it should be that much easier to reach our goal. To put it simply: if each person who read this one email donated whatever they could (even just $10) we would easily surpass our goal! 

Today, I hope you will join the many heroes who keep this ship afloat, and enable us to proclaim the truth through our reporting to tens of millions of people every year!

Your donations to LifeSite cause major things to happen! We see that every day and it is very exciting. Please join with us in making a cultural impact with a donation of ANY AMOUNT right now. 

You can also donate by phone or mail. We would love to hear from you!

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