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Ron Jeremy to Debate at Truman State University

Let’s see if I can follow AVN’s logic in this story. Porn is available for free, and young consumers don’t want to pay for it. Then in the next breath AVN says the mobile market is the next big one for porn. Let’s see how those consumers will react when they get their bills for the porn downloads.

[from www.stltoday.com]- One week from today, the star of “Luau Orgy,” “Gazongas” and the ahead-of-its-time “Wanda Whips Wall Street” will walk onto the campus of Truman State University in Kirksville to debate a pastor on the subject most dear to his heart: porn.

It will fall to the Rev. Craig Gross to rebut actor Ron Jeremy’s arguments that pornography is a harmless activity that most people pursue in the privacy of their own homes.

“If Ron was right, I wouldn’t have a job,” said Gross, founder of XXXChurch.com — a Christian website dedicated to battling pornography. “Porn rips apart homes and families.”

The Truman State debate is just one upcoming anti-porn event organized by local Christians. Such events reflect mounting distress among Christians over pornography’s growing technological reach.

From individual congregations to large organizations like the St. Louis Archdiocese, the Missouri Baptist Convention and the local stakes of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, anxious religious leaders are confronting what some call an increasingly dangerous moral threat to children and marriages.

Rick Schatz is on the executive board of the Cincinnati-based Religious Alliance Against Pornography, representing about 50 faith groups and Christian denominations.

“We’ve been around for 23 years, and I have never seen the level of concern among faith leaders that I have in the last year,” Schatz said. “Because of the explosion in new, mobile technologies, there’s a new threat level.”

The AVN Media Network, which tracks the pornography industry, reported total retail sales of $13 billion in 2006, the latest year for which numbers are available. M.J. McMahon, vice president of AVN’s online division, said profits have since declined, mostly in “traditional” venues like adult magazines and DVD sales.

Even online porn producers have seen revenue drop 20 percent in the last year, McMahon said, attributing the drop mostly to piracy, recession and “a saturated market.” The average porn consumer has changed, he said, and younger consumers who have grown up with the Internet, and who expect to get things for free, are unwilling to pay for porn online.

“In much the same way it has in the recording and film industries, the Internet has been both good and bad for adult entertainment,” said McMahon.

That leaves a new porn frontier that has church leaders quaking: cell phones. McMahon said while the cell phone market is still a relatively small portion of the industry’s revenue stream, he expects it “to grow into a substantial portion in the next 10 years.”

“The mobile phone offers the consumer portability and privacy, and now that they can adequately deliver video, mobile phones offer a viable distribution channel,” McMahon said.

While there is no way to verify AVN’s numbers, annual sales in the billions — with new delivery technologies on the market all the time — make pastors nervous.

Schatz said while the five major mobile phone companies have agreed to strict protective measures (no adult content on their own platforms and parental controls available on phones that access the Internet), any phone with Web capabilities is a possible delivery vehicle for pornography.

In the last year, the National Coalition for the Protection of Children and Families (which is affiliated with Religious Alliance Against Pornography) opened a St. Louis office, and its executive director, the Rev. John Splinter, has been busy. Splinter has been meeting with pastors, giving presentations, designing Bible study curricula and developing legislation with state lawmakers — all to combat a problem he says “is as addictive as cocaine or heroin.”

Splinter, an ordained Presbyterian minister, said that in the last year, he has worked with former St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke; Missouri Baptist Conference president the Rev. Bruce McCoy; and the president of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, the Rev. Gerald Kieschnick.

But much of Splinter’s time is spent with church pastors, trying to persuade them to bring the taboo topic of porn into the sanctuary for discussion. Last fall, the Rev. Ron Steel, pastor of the 700-member Twin Oaks Presbyterian Church in Ballwin, agreed to host a series of presentations, given by Splinter, on Wednesday nights.

“We really wanted parents to have as much information as possible about what’s happening out there with young people,” said Steel. But despite a lot of promotion, Steel said, only about 20 people showed up each night. “That was the most disappointing part.”

There’s a stigma attached to pornography that makes even discussing it — especially in church circles — difficult, said the Rev. Tony Ingrassia.

The pastor is scheduled to run one of his all-day Power of Purity conferences at First Assembly of God St. Charles on Saturday He also has three weekly Power of Purity groups that meet around St. Louis on Wednesday nights. Ingrassia, who said he was addicted to porn at one point in his life, said his ministry “is born out of the brokenness of my own life.”

Pure Heart Ministries, which also focuses on helping people wean themselves from porn, has branches in St. Charles and Jefferson City, and is opening branches in Cape Girardeau and Mount Vernon, Ill.

Founder Jim Venice said he has counseled more than 1,000 people in seven years for “sexual purity” issues and that 75 percent of those cases involved pornography.

“We try to close those doors that access pornography, and the bulk of that is Internet porn,” said Venice. “Internet porn is the church’s crack cocaine problem.”

Besides counseling people who believe they have a porn problem, many pastors recommend a variety of software programs that either block suspect websites, or monitor Web surfing activity, alerting a sponsor by e-mail if the person visits a suspect site.

Not everyone thinks porn is a major moral hurdle, or that it’s wrecking marriages or giving teenagers unrealistic sexual parameters for their later lives.

“How would porn break up a marriage?” asked actor Ron Jeremy. “Divorces and problems in marriages happened long before porn. If a porn film breaks up your marriage, you’ve got a shaky marriage to begin with.”

Tony Rothert, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern Missouri, said perennial anti-porn legislation filed at the behest of Christian lobbyists is unnecessary and often unconstitutional.

“We think that adults have a First Amendment right to read and look at whatever they want to read and look at as long as it’s not causing harm to someone else,” said Rothert. “If churches want to tell their members not to read porn, they can, but they shouldn’t be trying to use the government to impose their moral beliefs into law.”

ATTACKING THE ROOTS

While most of the battle against pornography in St. Louis is happening in the pews, Christian ministries in the heart of the porn world — Los Angeles and Las Vegas — target the other side of the pornography transaction: actors and producers.

Harmony Dust, a former stripper who danced under the name Monique, found God, left the business, earned a master’s degree in social welfare from UCLA and built one of the most successful Christian ministries, called Treasures, catering to sex industry workers.

“The porn industry is so huge that I see myself more as an ally to women in the business rather than an enemy of the business itself,” said Dust.

Dust and her team visit 170 strip clubs a year in Los Angeles, Orange County and Las Vegas handing out gift bags of “girly stuff” and a simple message of Christian support.

“We just encourage them in their value and purpose,” Dust said, “and God does the rest.”

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