74 evangelical leaders want pornography labeled a public health crisis in Ohio

A sex trafficking victim waits for customers. | REUTERS/CLARO CORTES

More than six dozen clergy members are calling on county officials in Ohio to declare pornography a public health crisis and hope to see similar action taken at the state level.

Pastors from 74 different congregations endorsed a draft resolution calling on the board of Richland Public Health to declare pornography “a public health crisis.” 

The clergy want the county health board to push for the “enforcement of obscenity laws” and increased “regulation of pornography on the Internet at both the state and federal levels in order to protect citizens and minors from such exposure.”

“Our hope is this resolution will encourage education, prevention, research, and policy changes at the state level to confront pornography’s proliferation on the Internet and in society,” Rev. El Akuchie of Godsfield House of Prayer, the co-founder of Richland Community Prayer Network, said in a statement

Akuchie and other signatories see a link between the pornography industry and human trafficking.

“Pornography creates a sexually toxic environment intertwined with the perpetuation of prostitution, and the modern-day slavery of human trafficking, with over half of sex trafficking victims reporting they were required to learn and perform sexual acts according to depictions in pornography,” the resolution explains.

Akuchie said that due to pornography’s affiliation with human trafficking, the pastors are calling on the county to declare a public health emergency.

“As a diverse group of clergy, we believe if word got out of a multi-sector partnership between engaged faith community and local government, strategically, it could deter potential human traffickers from establishing operations in our region,” the reverend stated.

According to Pastor James Marshall of Ganges Community Church in Shelby, human trafficking is a major problem in Ohio. 

“The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) is a member of the Governor’s Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force, and according to its website, ranks Ohio as fifth among all states in total reported human trafficking cases,” he said.

“The Task Force also identifies Toledo [in Lucas County] as the fourth-highest ranking city in the nation for recruiting victims into the illegal trade."

The draft resolution mentions the effort to declare pornography a “public health hazard” at the state level. House Resolution 180, sponsored by 19 members of the Ohio House of Representatives, was introduced in June 2019.

So far, no action has been taken on the bill.

Should House Resolution 180 become law, Ohio would become the 16th state to label pornography a public health crisis. 

The other states that have passed similar resolutions to H.R. 180 are Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Montana, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah and Virginia.

In the past, religious leaders in Ohio have influenced public policy in the Buckeye State. 

Earlier this year, a group of more than 100 pastors wrote a letter to the Ohio State Board of Education, the leaders of the Ohio General Assembly and several superintendents of school districts across the state protesting against the practicing of yoga in public schools in certain districts.

The pastors argued that forcing children to practice yoga, which they described as a “form of Eastern religion,” violated the First Amendment. 

In response to the letter, some of the school districts agreed to keep yoga out of their classrooms. 

In 2015, before any state had passed a resolution declaring pornography a public health crisis, pastors from 66 congregations in Richland County called for “a day of prayer, repentance and fasting from the sin of immorality which includes the use of pornography.” 

Several municipalities in Richland County implemented restrictive laws regulating businesses selling pornography and held a “Pornography Awareness Week” in 2016.

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