Utah Gov. to Sign Legislation Declaring Porn a 'Public Health Hazard'

(Photo: Reuters/Thomas Peter)

Republican Utah Gov. Gary R. Herbert is expected to sign legislation Tuesday declaring pornography a "public health hazard" and punish computer technicians who fail to report finding child pornography during their work.

The legislation comes some seven years after a Harvard Business School study found that Utah, despite the state's reputation for wholesomeness, had the highest per capita purchasers of online adult entertainment in the U.S.

Herbert will sign S.C.R. 9 Concurrent Resolution on the Public Health Crisis and H.B. 155 Reporting of Child Pornography.

In signing the resolution, Herbert will officially agree with the Legislature of the state of Utah "that pornography is a public health hazard leading to a broad spectrum of individual and public health impacts and societal harms."

It also recognizes "the need for education, prevention, research, and policy change at the community and societal level in order to address the pornography epidemic that is harming the people of our state and nation."

The bill takes action against the consumption of child pornography by requiring that computer technicians who find child pornography in the course of their work to report the finding to law enforcement or the federal Cyber Tip Line for child pornography.

It also allows employers to establish a procedure for the computer technician employee to report to a designated employee who will report the child pornography. If the technician willfully fails to report finding child pornography, that technician will be guilty of a class B misdemeanor. Internet service providers who report child pornography in compliance with specified federal law will not be liable under the new legislation.

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In an address to the Utah Coalition Against Pornography last month, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said pornography is now a scourge that deserves to be treated as a public health crisis.

"I can't really tell you much you don't already know about the evils of pornography — so I will tell you some things you do know: That there is steadily, inexorably, unendingly more of it, that it is easier than ever for everyone, including children, to access, and that it continues to rend the very moral fabric of our society whether that be the family, the community, the state or the nation. That is because in every case, it rends the moral fabric of each individual who views it or otherwise participates in its production or distribution," he said.

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Holland further noted: "Yes, this ought to be seen like a public health crisis; like an infectious, fatal epidemic; like a moral plague on the body politic that is maiming the lives of our citizens. Frankly, until the sirens of a public-health war sound, I fear we will be wholly unsuccessful in this fight against the germ-invasion sweeping across our homeland."

In an April 8 op-ed for The Washington Post, Gail Dines, professor of sociology at Wheelock College in Boston and author of Pornland: How Porn has Hijacked our Sexuality, wrote there is overwhelming evidence that porn is a public health crisis.

"Extensive scientific research reveals that exposure to and consumption of porn threaten the social, emotional and physical health of individuals, families and communities, and highlights the degree to which porn is a public health crisis rather than a private matter," she wrote.

Republican State Sen. Todd Weiler, a Mormon who sponsored both pieces of legislation said earlier this year that children were being exposed to porn causing them to engage in riskier sexual behavior.

"It's not just a kooky thing that some, you know, politician from Mormon Utah came up with," Weiler said. "When I was a kid, people might sneak a Playboy magazine and look at it. Now, you've got all kinds of horrible, graphic images that are available to anyone with an Internet connection one or two clicks away."

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