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Throwing the book at 'em

"Throwing the book at 'em" Continued...

Issue: "Ashcroft 2000?," Oct. 11, 1997

Mr. Sears has said he believes the Sturges books violate federal child pornography laws. Shyla Welch, speaking for the anti-porn group Enough Is Enough, has seen the books and says it ought to be an open-and-shut case: "We need to ... say yes, this is child porn." She, like Mr. Sears, suggests further investigation into Mr. Sturges's work to find out "what's on the cutting-room floor."

More than that, Mr. Sears believes, this type of child pornography is a weapon in the hands of child molesters, who rely on it to seduce their prey. "Pedophiles lower the inhibitions of children with materials like that [Sturges] book," he says. "They show these pictures to the children, and try to normalize what a child otherwise would know better than to do. It's a progressive thing as they work with the child. They get the child to go to underwear, then to nudity, then to various sexual activity captured on camera. At some point it often goes from coaxing to coercion to blackmail."

Pedophiles are clever in their use of pornography, Mr. Sears says. He cites an Indianapolis case, which he learned about while working with the federal pornography commission, in which a man in an upper-middle-class neighborhood took a young neighbor girl to the convenience store, a familiar place where she shopped with her parents. He showed her a magazine whose cover had a picture of a favorite rock star, and inside, the singer was nude. He bought the magazine and used that to convince her she could do the same thing with him. Several months of severe sexual abuse ensued; the man eventually was arrested and convicted. The child's parents divorced, however, and she underwent years of therapy.

"Let's think about the same thing with Barnes & Noble. This is where the little girl goes to the mall to buy ... her Bible, maybe she bought her Sunday school book here. This guy can do the same thing," capitalizing on familiar settings to lure her into abuse.

But is it right for citizens to take the law into their own hands? Danny Akin, Dean of the School of Theology at Southern Seminary in Louisville, says it is the difference between lying down in front of an abortion clinic to be arrested and destroying the clinic with a bomb.

"Are these [books] evil? Absolutely. Should we seek all legal recourse to thwart it? Absolutely. I affirm and agree with their concern," says Mr. Akin, who has testified in a Dallas trial that pornography violates community standards. "But I think the means by which they are protesting violates Scripture. I can't think of any way to justify it. You are destroying property that is not your own."

A more potent protest, he says, would be to pay for the book and then to tear it up in the store to say: "This is what I think this is worth. That would probably make a more forceful moral statement."

Daniel didn't destroy the statue of Nebuchadnezzar, the worship of which violated his conscience but wasn't his property. Instead, Mr. Akin says, Daniel protested passively by praying and quietly suffering the consequence. "Should Southern Baptists be down in Orlando tearing up Mickey Mouse comic books or tearing Mouse ears off people's heads and stomping them?"

Mr. Terry's planned protests and boycott are good ideas, he says. "That should have been the first step."

Mr. Terry insists his protest is right: "We cannot sit idly by and let child pornography become mainstreamed. That's what this is all about. Barnes & Noble is seeking to mainstream child pornography. They're exploiting children, they're equipping child molesters, and we have a moral obligation to be as bold and as courageous and as intolerant as we possibly can be."

While the president of Barnes & Noble declined a WORLD request for an interview, deferring to a spokeswoman who issued the company's boilerplate statement that the books have not been declared illegal, he did take the time to write a letter to Dean Arnold, a Chattanooga, Tenn., man who took Barnes & Noble to task in his on-line magazine, The Chattanooga Fax. In the Aug. 27 edition, one headline read: "Incest, Nude Child Books Sold at Local Barnes & Noble."

Company president Tom Tolworthy wrote: "We object to the use of our store as a podium to advance your agenda. We do not believe we have the right as a retailer to censor the reading interests of our customers. We follow all community standards as expressed through federal, state, and local legislation...."

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