Thursday, March 18, 2010

American Religions, Politics, and Pornography: Where is the Moral Majority?

Excerpts of  Highlights from BYU Studies 50th Anniversary Symposium,  Meridian Magazine

American Religions, Politics, and Pornography: Where is the Moral Majority? By Cheryl B. Preston, Brigham Young University
If you've questioned how people of faith can hold any clout in today's political atmosphere, Cheryl Preston provided convincing statistics: over 100 million North Americans affiliate with Christian churches. Preston claimed we are standing at a crossroads. Right now religious rhetoric is excluded from the public square unless it is framed on secular terms, and the threat may soon arise that any issue with moral implications will be lacking in credibility because of its roots in a belief system. With this threat in mind, Preston asked, how do religious organizations' moral doctrines on pornography translate, if at all, into political or legal reform?

Churches contribute to public policy through generating belief among congregants--and voters--that pornography is wrong, helping to rehabilitate those who are addicted, and participating in legal activism to restrict access to pornography. However, activism among religious organizations has been relatively low and ineffective. Historically, religious people have organized to create the movie rating system, fuel the civil rights movement, and pass California's Proposition 8; why haven't they succeeded in uniting to fight for pornography regulation? Preston provided some likely reasons, including fears of tackling sensitive First Amendment issues, apathy toward pornography in the face of more pressing social problems, an attitude of tolerance for those who do not have religious views, or sentiments that people should exercise freedom of choice to avoid pornographic material rather than fighting to have it restricted. Preston noted that among those who are interested in political activism, perhaps they have yet to find a compelling story to rally around or an effective way to combine efforts.

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