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An outspoken local church has taken up the fight against pornography

WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Illinois — The phrase “practice what you preach” might be a simple idiom to some, but in Todd Greiner’s case, it’s something he and his congregation are putting to task.

Greiner, pastor of the Community of Faith Church, located just south of Herrin on Route 148, is urging his church members to approach local gas stations and movie stores, including many in Herrin, in an attempt to remove pornographic materials from their shelves.

The movement, known as Citizens Against Pornography, started about four months ago when Greiner began to preach about what he saw as the ills of pornography. He said the addictive nature of pornography is something that can destroy families and marriages.

“It’s an enormous problem in this country and all over the world, and there is very little said about it,” Greiner said. “Pornography is every bit as addictive as drugs.”

Greiner said that as he has researched the statistics on pornography, he has been surprised by how unnoticed it goes in society.

“Nobody is saying anything about it,” he said. “It goes unresisted and unchallenged.”

The group doesn’t expect to put an end to all pornography, and Greiner said the group’s impact mostly will be local. He added that as long as the church makes a small difference, it will be doing its part.

“We are going to put a full-page out in The Southern Illinoisan, and we are going to list the businesses who do sell pornography, and we are going to encourage people not to patronize those businesses,” Greiner said.

The church often has taken out large newspaper ads in the past to protest issues such as abortion and the release of last year’s controversial fantasy film “The Golden Compass.” It even placed a full-page ad decrying abortion last fall in USA Today.

Robert Benford, a professor in sociology at SIUC and an expert on the topic of protest tactics, said the act of public shaming is one that has been used throughout history. He said the method might not be effective but that “it goes back to the stockades, where they would put somebody in a public square in a stockade and hang a sign around their neck out in public. Or the modern-day method of the court system of putting signs in sex offender’s yards or what have you.”

Citizens Against Pornography decided to target any store selling materials that depict visual nudity. Greiner said that 14 area stores have been approached about removing the materials, and three have complied and done so.

Greiner said the common misconception is that pornography only affects the person looking at it. Instead, Greiner says, pornography has a domino effect and can hurt multiple people who are exposed to the problem.

“Being a pastor, I have had personal experiences as far as counseling with families who have had this issue,” Greiner said. “When it’s treated like it’s not that big of a deal, it’s very destructive.”

Several businesses in Herrin have been targeted by the group. Connie Foster, a manager at the Gas Mart in Herrin, said the group did visit the store looking to stop the sale of X-rated materials. She said that she simply gave them a contact number. She said she has yet to hear from the group since then.

“I just gave them the home office number,” Foster said.

An employee at One Stop Smoke Shop in Herrin said it has yet to be approached by Citizens Against Pornography. The employee added that the change in inventory would have to come from the boss.

Movie Gallery also has been approached, but since the store is a national chain, manager Lori Horn said the store cannot immediately remove X-rated movies from the store. Horn said she gave the group information on how to contact the corporate office. She added that she couldn’t make any changes if she wanted to and that the only way changes could be made to the store’s inventory would be through corporate.

“It doesn’t matter to me either way, I just work here,” Horn said. “I’m just doing my job.”

Businesses in Carterville also have been targeted, and one business, the Carterville Short Stop, on the corner of Division Street and Grand Avenue, has stopped selling X-rated materials at the request of the group.

Since visiting the stores, Community of Faith Church has placed several petitions on its website urging citizens to boycott them until changes have been made to their inventory. The stores join a list of gas stations and movie stores in Benton, Goreville, Harrisburg, Du Quoin, Marion and Carbondale that either have been visited or had petitions out against them. Major chains such as Barnes and Noble, Family Video and Waldenbooks also are among the businesses targeted.

Greiner said that should the stores not adhere to the petitions, he will place the ad into The Southern Illinoisan at the end of May.

Laura Hlavach, a journalism professor at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, said the church has the legal right to publish a full-page ad with a list of compliant and non-compliant stores in any newspaper it chooses.

“So long as it’s not saying anything defamatory, there wouldn’t be much cause for any stores to bring legal action against the newspaper,” Hlavach said.

Greiner said that many of the businesses that have refused to remove X-rated materials have said little about their constitutional right to freedom of speech. He added that companies that have to be dealt with on the corporate level have been mostly uncooperative and downplayed the issue.

Bedford said he finds the idea of singling out pornography interesting because many other addictive items that gas stations sell fit in the same mold. Boycotting just one aspect might not be enough to bring change, he said.

“On the other hand, some of those stores might be deriving most of their money off of what some would consider sin, including gambling, cigarettes, alcohol and pornography,” Benford said.

Citizens Against Pornography isn’t the first group to battle against the pornography industry in Southern Illinois. The church, along with other churches, joined together three times last summer to protest the Lion’s Den, an adult book store. Greiner said that he knew the store wouldn’t change but added that the important part was getting a message across.

“We definitely took a stand there and made a statement,” Greiner said. “We’re definitely not going to do anything illegal or harmful or wrong.”

Greiner said that after the ad runs, he isn’t sure what the next step will.

“We’re going to have to cross that bridge when we come to it,” Greiner said.

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