Month Archives: July 2019

The Case Against Marijuana Legalization: 3 Myths Debunked

by Hugh Phillips

July 17, 2019

On July 10, the House Judiciary committee held a hearing entitled “Marijuana Laws in America: Racial Justice and the Need for Reform.” The pro-pot panel that testified before the committee made many fantastic and outlandish claims to support the legalization of recreational marijuana use.

Claim 1: “Teen use of marijuana drops with legalization.”

One of the claims the panel made about recreational marijuana legalization is that when a state legalizes marijuana, adolescent usage declines. Yet, this claim does not match logic. As Charles Stimson notes, when marijuana is legalized, use by minors will rise because all deterrents have been removed:

Marijuana’s illegal status “keeps potential drug users from using” marijuana in a way that no legalization scheme can replicate “by virtue of the fear of arrest and the embarrassment of being caught.” With increased use comes increased abuse, as the fear of arrest and embarrassment will decrease.

Rep. Ben Cline (R-Va.) challenged the assumption that minors would be protected if the drug is legalized by pointing to the fact that legalization had “increased unintended exposure by young children” and “tripled” calls to poison centers for kids mistakenly “ingesting” marijuana. Thus, Rep. Cline asked Mr. Nathan, a member of the panel, “Have you seen youth access to legalization increase as a result of legalization?” Mr. Nathan was forced to admit that many more kids were mistakenly ingesting marijuana in legalized states. This shows that marijuana is much more accessible to minors and ripe for abuse in states were the substance is being made legal.

Claim 2: “The marijuana black market will be dismantled by legalization.”

The panel also made the argument that federal legalization would create a “regulated market” and take away the power of the black market. Yet, Neal Levine, representative of the Cannabis Trade Federation, was forced to admit that despite state regulation in states that had legalized marijuana, the black market was still the legal industry’s greatest “competitor.” This is backed up by research that shows the black market is the main seller in some legalized states. Even liberal California governor Gavin Newsom has admitted that the black market in California got more powerful after legalization. The governor has even recently deployed the California National Guard in an effort to halt illegal growers.

It is clear that government regulation does not stop the black market. In fact, if the federal government chooses to legalize and regulate pot, government intervention may very well increase the size and volatility of the black market as criminals seek to sell more potent strands of the drug than federal law allows.

Claim 3: “Marijuana is safer and causes less dependency than alcohol or tobacco.”

This claim made by a member of the panel is one of the most easily debunked myths about marijuana. The National Institute of Health has proven that marijuana is a gateway drug. Those who use marijuana become almost three times more likely to become addicted to opioids. The National Institute of Health also notes that, “Marijuana is associated with a six-fold increase in suicide.” This is just a fraction of the detrimental heath consequences associated with marijuana use. The National Institute on Drug Abuse has noted that marijuana hinders brain development, can cause “paranoia,” hurts the respiratory system, and can cause permanent brain damage. The evidence is clear—marijuana is a dangerous drug and must not be legalized in the United States.

We Must Stand Against Marijuana Legalization

Legalization or decriminalization of recreational marijuana use on the federal level is bad policy. The STATES Act (H.R. 2093) and the SAFE Banking Act (H.R. 1595) are just steps in the road to complete legalization. Not only do they stand upon questionable constitutional foundations, but they would increase the many social detriments associated with marijuana, including rises in drug abuse, crime, criminal trafficking, and mental health problems. Family health and safety would be degraded across the United States if these two pieces of legislation were to pass and put the U.S. on the road to legalization. For the sake of America’s families, Congress should reject the STATES Act and SAFE Banking Act, keep marijuana illegal, and focus on more effective ways of stopping the interstate drug trade.

Hugh Phillips is a Government Affairs intern at Family Research Council working on pro-life legislation.

Joseph Nicolosi on the Deep Need for Fatherly Affirmation

by Peter Sprigg

July 16, 2019

I wrote yesterday about Amazon removing listings for a number of books about sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE), sometimes referred to by critics as “conversion therapy.” A particular target for Rojo Alan (the British LGBT activist who claimed credit for the change) and for other critics were the works of the late Dr. Joseph Nicolosi. He coined the term “reparative therapy” to describe his psychoanalytic approach to sexual orientation change. I have two of the books by Dr. Nicolosi that Amazon has banned in my library. While I have not read either cover to cover, I have read enough to know that they directly contradict some of what critics say about them. The two books are:

  • Joseph Nicolosi, Reparative Therapy of Male Homosexuality: A New Clinical Approach (Northvale, N.J.: Jason Aronson, Inc. 1997)
  • Joseph Nicolosi, Ph.D., & Linda Ames Nicolosi, A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Homosexuality (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2002)

One criticism of Nicolosi in particular stood out. Rojo Alan told the GayStarNews, “The books went into ways in which you can mentally and physically abuse your child.”

Really?

Here are some of the actual recommendations and observations in Nicolosi’s Parent’s Guide:

  • Use “positive and affirming strategies.” (p. 15)
  • The “at-risk boy needs (but does not get) particular affirmation from parents and peers.” (p. 22)
  • [To a father:] “Just be there for Stevie emotionally. Maintain a warm, loving relationship with him and don’t let him pull away.” (p. 29)
  •  “I told Bill that Stevie did not really need therapy. ‘He needs his dad.’” (p. 30)
  • (A father must) “do the little things—the everyday, caring, and loving things” (p. 31).
  • Boys “need from their dads what we reparative therapists call ‘the three A’s’: affection, attention, and approval.” (p. 50)
  •  [Quoting another expert:] “Anything that parents can do to make their kids feel proud of their identity—as young men, as young women—will help the [treatment] process” (p. 154).

Nicolosi’s own work focused primarily on men, but his Parent’s Guide included a chapter on girls as well. It includes these points:

  • For girls, “there should be a warm mother-daughter intimacy … . Indeed, a healthy relationship with Mom provides the most important foundation …” (p. 156)
  • The father of a daughter “provides love and positive regard so that the girl will feel worthy of another man’s love.” (p. 157)
  • When a girl has been found to be involved in a lesbian relationship, the parents will probably be focused on stopping their daughter’s sexual behavior. But the girl herself is primarily concerned about her own feelings of loneliness, alienation, rejection, and poor self-esteem. A skillful therapist can offer concern for the girl’s feelings… . The father will need to assess his involvement in his daughter’s life. This will probably require a more supportive, less intrusive role for him. The mother, at the same time, will need to share her emotional self and her vulnerabilities with her daughter, and build a relationship of greater mutuality.” (pp. 163-64)     

Stereotypes?

Some people suggest that SOCE tries to force boys into stereotypical masculinity. But it is actually pro-LGBT adults who often stereotype a child as “gay” (or even “transgender”) based on their personality traits. Here is what Nicolosi says:

  • The “child should not be forced into a predetermined mold that will cause him to deny his fundamental nature—his natural gifts of creativity, sensitivity, kindness, gentleness, sociability, intuitiveness, or high intellect.” (p. 38)
  • A “boy can be sensitive, kind, social, artistic, gentle—and heterosexual. He can be an artist, an actor, a dancer, a cook, a musician—and a heterosexual. These innate artistic skills are ‘who he is,’ part of the wonderful range of human abilities. No one should try to discourage those abilities and traits.” (p. 48)

 “Rejection”?

Critics of SOCE often argue that it results from a “rejection” of the LGBT child. Does Nicolosi urge parents to reject their children if they identify as gay? The answer is clearly no:

  • Of course, no intervention can guarantee that a child will grow up heterosexual… . I trusted that Margaret and Bill would still love their son if those efforts were not successful.” (p. 32)

Last month, USA Today ran an article about Scott Dittman, a man who attended Pittsburgh’s LGBT Pride parade wearing a t-shirt offering “Free Dad Hugs.” More than 700 people took him up on the offer, with some becoming quite emotional—“you can see how damaged deep down so many of them are,” Dittman reported.

Yet Nicolosi himself wrote something similar, saying:

  • Boys have a need “for a man’s attention, affection, and affirmation—a need to be hugged and held” (p. 30).

Maybe the distance between LGBT activists and the books they persuaded Amazon to ban is not as great as they think—if only they would take the time to read them.

LISTEN: Mike Pompeo on the Fight for International Religious Freedom

by Family Research Council

July 15, 2019

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo unveiled the Commission on Unalienable Rights last week to address basic human rights violations across the world. Family Research Council President Tony Perkins recently sat down with Pompeo to discuss how the Commission could impact religious freedom. Pompeo said progress has been made but there are still violations occurring around the world that are “unacceptable” (starts at 9:15).

Secretary Pompeo also previewed the second Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom which the State Department is hosting in Washington on July 16-18. Click here for more information on the ministerial.

Here is the full conversation between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and FRC President Tony Perkins.

 

Amazon Book-Banning: Cowardly, Bullying, and Foolish

by Peter Sprigg

July 15, 2019

A year ago, I wrote a blog post warning that a proposed bill in California, AB 2943, could result in books being banned. Some critics of the bill even pointed out how it could be interpreted to ban the Bible itself. As it turns out, book-banning has now become reality.

Here’s a brief recap:

Book-Banning: 2018

The California bill AB 2943 was intended to outlaw “sexual orientation change efforts” (“SOCE;” sometimes referred to by the media and critics as “conversion therapy”) as a form of “consumer fraud.” But the state’s fraud statute applies to the “sale … of goods” (like books) as well as services (like counseling). And SOCE were defined to include efforts to change “behaviors”—not just attractions. So since the Bible is a “good” that is often sold, and since it attempts to change homosexual behavior (“You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female,” Leviticus 18:22), an argument could be made that Bible sales would fall under the bill’s prohibition.

I pointed out that even if a Bible ban was unlikely (and unlikely to hold up in court), other books—ones whose whole purpose is to promote sexual orientation change—could be much more vulnerable.

Although “fact-checkers” tried to debunk the notion of a Bible ban (or even a book ban), the concerns about religious liberty were serious enough that Assembly sponsor Evan Low withdrew the bill.

Book-Banning: 2019

Fortunately, in 2018 the California legislature stepped back from the brink of banning books for people with unwanted same-sex attractions (SSA).

But now in 2019, the country’s largest bookseller—Amazon.com—has done it for them.

News broke on the eve of Independence Day, when Americans celebrate our freedoms—that we will no longer be free to buy certain books dealing with SOCE or with unwanted SSA on Amazon.

Maybe it was the Brits’ revenge—because some reports made it appear that the change resulted from months of agitation by a lone British activist named Rojo Alan. (A Change.org petition urging their removal may have predated Alan’s campaign, though.)

The Amazon ban on SOCE books is, in some ways, even more insidious than the California one would have been. After all, the state would have had a hard time mustering the resources to enforce its ban on the “sale … of goods” that promote sexual orientation change.

Amazon, on the other hand, is itself a dominant force in the book market. If buyers cannot find these books on Amazon, there is a good chance they will not be able to find them anywhere—which, of course, is the goal of LGBT activists. A state ban would have run up against pesky obstacles like the First Amendment to the Constitution. Amazon, as a private company, faces no such constraint.

As a market leader, however, they have a moral obligation to a value usually promoted by the left—“diversity.” A diversity that makes no room for conservative viewpoints on controversial issues is no diversity at all—it is dictatorship.

Amazon is Reserving the Right to Actually Burn Books

Amazon has not made any explicit comment on the removal of ex-gay therapy books. Their website features a policy on “Offensive and Controversial Materials,” which include:

  • Violence, Intolerance, and Hate
  • Human Tragedies and Disasters
  • Child Abuse and Exploitation

However, the language is vague enough that Amazon has basically reserved the right to ban anything it wants. (“We exercise judgment in allowing or prohibiting listings … Amazon reserves the right to determine the appropriateness of listings on its site, and remove any listing at any time.”).

Some critics of Amazon’s decision have raised the specter not only of book banning, but of book burning. Lest you think this an extreme, purely metaphorical critique, note this part of the Amazon policy: “… [W]e will take corrective actions, as appropriate, including but not limited to …  destroying inventory in our fulfillment centers without reimbursement …” (emphasis added). Rather inexplicably, however, the company also says, “Amazon’s Offensive Products policies apply to all products except books, music, video and DVD” (emphasis added). Perhaps they meant “including?”

Last year, I wrote this:

But shouldn’t every American be shocked at the thought of a state banning the sale of any books based on their philosophical, religious, or moral viewpoint?

Banning books because one doesn’t like their message?

In the United States of America?

In this country, you can sell all kinds of books.

You can sell Mein Kampf, and The Communist Manifesto. Bookstores sell the celebration of sado-masochism of Fifty Shades of Grey, and the celebration of sodomy in Allen Ginsberg’s Howl.

But now, apparently, you cannot (or will not, in the case of Amazon) sell books that are intended to help people with unwanted same-sex attractions achieve their own goals for their lives.

Every American—even those who don’t approve of or support therapies to change sexual orientation—should oppose the kind of blatant censorship that Amazon is exercising.

Critiques of SOCE are Misguided and Ill-Informed

In pulling SOCE books from its website, Amazon is acting as a bully—but also as a coward, succumbing to social and political pressure (from a tiny group of people), rather than standing firm for true diversity of thought.

However, they are also simply acting as fools. While principles of freedom and diversity should be enough to keep books on change therapies available for sale, there is another major reason to do so—the things critics say about such therapies, and books promoting them, are simply false. In fact, I doubt very much that any of the critics of these books have ever even seen—let alone read—any of the books they want banned.

Here are some of the myths about sexual orientation change promoted by critics of SOCE. Since I have written extensively on this topic, let me just provide links to some of the papers documenting the truth about sexual orientation change.

  • Myth No. 1 – “Sexual orientation is immutable.”

Four large data sets reflecting longitudinal analysis of the same individuals over time in population-based samples have shown that significant change in all elements of sexual orientation (attractions, behaviors, and identity) can change. Even lesbian scholar Lisa Diamond has said it is time to “abandon the immutability argument once and for all.”

See: “Evidence Shows Sexual Orientation Can Change: Debunking the Myth of ‘Immutability’” (March 2019)

  • Myth No. 2 – “There is no evidence that SOCE is ever effective.”

Six studies or surveys from 2000 to 2018—five of them in peer-reviewed academic journals—have all shown that SOCE can be effective for some clients in bringing about significant change in some components of sexual orientation, while few harms were reported.

See: “Are Sexual Orientation Change Efforts (SOCE) Effective? Are They Harmful? What the Evidence Shows” (September 2018)

  • Myth No. 3 – “Research has proven that SOCE is harmful.”

The American Psychological Association—although generally critical of SOCE—has admitted that there is no “valid causal evidence” that SOCE is harmful.

See: “The Hidden Truth About Changing Sexual Orientation: Ten Ways Pro-LGBT Sources Undermine the Case for Therapy Bans” (May 2018)

Court Rulings on the Protect Life Rule Leave Abortion Advocates Stunned

by Connor Semelsberger , Mary Jayne Caum

July 15, 2019

Across the United States, courts tasked with hearing the lawsuits against the Trump administration’s pro-life rule changes to the Title X Family Planning Program agree, “the Government is likely to prevail.”

When the Trump administration’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) published the Protect Life Rule, pro-abortion groups such as Planned Parenthood lost no time in filing lawsuits to halt the Rule’s implementation. Believing they would be assigned a favorable judge, opponents of the Rule filed suit in the Ninth Circuit and other friendly courts. Although opponents obtained an advantageous ruling at the district court level, ultimately a three-judge panel in both the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (9th Circuit) and the Fourth Circuit (4th Circuit) decided to lift the preliminary injunctions and allow the Rule to be implemented temporarily. Opponents of the Rule suffered another failure when an 11-judge panel sitting en banc in the 9th Circuit reiterated that the Rule should be implemented while the merits of the case are heard. Lastly, a district judge in Maine refused to halt the Rule’s implementation while the merits of the case are litigated. That totals four devastating and seemingly unexpected adverse rulings opponents of the Protect Life Rule have suffered thus far. 

In each Court Opinion, the various courts explain the Protect Life Rule should go into effect during the lawsuit, because HHS will likely prevail in defending the Rule. This legal conclusion is reached for primarily two reasons: precedent and statutory interpretation. The Supreme Court Decision Rust v. Sullivan upheld regulations nearly identical to the Protect Life Rule. Additionally, the Rule adheres to applicable statutes. Therefore, courts across the nation conclude that HHS is likely to succeed on the merits because of the precedent established by Rust and the Rule’s lawful adherence to statutory law. An issue brief published by Family Research Council has further information on the legal arguments surrounding Title X. 

These legal proclamations are devastating for pro-abortion groups because it undermines a significant portion of their industry. The clear separation that the Protect Life Rule establishes between family planning funding and the abortion industry is contrary to their worldview. If the Protect Life Rule is ultimately upheld, abortion providers must adhere to the regulations in order to continue receiving Title X funds. If abortion providers such as Planned Parenthood refuse to comply, however, those Title X family planning funds can be diverted to other healthcare clinics such as Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs), Rural Health Centers, and Pregnancy Resource Centers which provide certain services that would be eligible for Title X funding under the Protect Life Rule

Since taking office, President Donald Trump and the U.S. Senate have worked together to confirm 127 federal judges. Several of these judges were vital to lifting the preliminary injunction against the Protect Life Rule, including two in the 9th Circuit, two in the 4th Circuit, and one in the United States District Court for the District of Maine. The ability of President Trump and the U.S. Senate to confirm constitutionally-minded judges shows that elections have consequences and that victory in the courts is crucial.

Without a favorable ruling on the merits, abortion referrals will continue, co-mingling of funds will perpetuate, and precious babies developing in the womb will perish. Courts must continue to discard the shallow political arguments opponents of the Rule are making and choose to uphold the law. The survival of countless lives depends upon future legal victories. 

Mary Jayne Caum is a Policy intern at Family Research Council. Connor Semelsberger is Legislative Assistant at Family Research Council.

World Leaders Shamelessly Deny Religious Freedom Violations in Their Countries

by Arielle Del Turco , Luke Isbell

July 12, 2019

When the State Department released its annual Report on International Religious Freedom in June detailing the status of religious freedom in countries around the world, it drew blowback from world leaders whose countries failed to receive a positive report. 

Officials from India’s ruling Hindu nationalist party, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), were especially quick to criticize the State Department’s assessment of their country.

The report outlines several instances where violence has occurred against religious minorities and how Indian law enforcement has been implicated in many of the crimes.

Violence against Christians and Muslims is an ongoing problem in India—and Indian law enforcement has been reluctant to protect these religious minority communities. What’s worse is that law enforcement has often been implicated in many of the crimes committed against religious minorities. Over the past several years, it has become increasingly common for members of Hindu nationalist groups to attack Christian leaders and their ministries following false accusations that Christians are practicing forced conversions. There’s clearly religious freedom violations occurring in India, and the State Department report offers substantial evidence to confirm that.

In response to the State Department’s report, Anil Baluni, the National Media head for the BJP, defended Indian president Narendra Modi in an official statement. “The basic presumption in this report that there is some grand design behind anti-minority violence is simply false,” he stated. “Whenever needed, Mr. Modi and other BJP leaders have deplored violence against minorities and weaker sections.”

In another response to the report, a government spokesperson tersely retorted that, “India is proud of its secular credentials, its status as the largest democracy and a pluralistic society with a longstanding commitment to tolerance and inclusion.”

The State Department report is not the only announcement that has put oppressive countries on the defensive. Popular news outlets are also calling out countries on the abuses levied at their people.

Recently, Pakistani leaders issued a defense of Pakistan’s treatment of religious minorities. During a recent trip to Brussels, Pakistani Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs Shah Mahmood Qureshi attempted to downplay accusations of ongoing Christian persecution in Pakistan. He argued that Christians are “very welcome,” and stated, “we respect them and want them to be there.”

News reports suggest the environment for Christians in Pakistan is less than welcoming. 

Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, which prohibit speaking against Islam, are often abused and used to settle unrelated disputes. Pakistani Christians live in fear of being accused of blasphemy, which can be punishable by death.

Last week, Nigerian leaders also claimed that accusations of persecution against Christians in Nigeria was exaggerated. This is an especially bold denial when the situation in Nigeria borders on genocide.

Tens of thousands of Christians have been displaced or killed by Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen. Boko Haram has killed more people than ISIS, and the Fulani are armed with AK-47s. Despite the horrific violence occurring in Nigeria, when the Northern Christian Elders Forum wrote a letter to the British Parliament about the abuses suffered under the current administration, the Nigerian government was quick to retort that claims of religious persecution in Nigeria were false. Nigerian officials went so far as to trivialize the current violence by calling it a simple case of clashes between farmers and herdsman.  

These incidences of world leaders denying religious freedom violations in their countries is appalling and hard to believe—yet it is actually a good sign. This shows that efforts like the State Department’s annual Report on International Religious Freedom (which calls out countries on their religious freedom violations), the upcoming Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom (which highlights the diplomatic importance of honoring religious liberty), and even reports by major news outlets are effective. The fact that state leaders don’t want their countries to be seen as countries where religious liberty isn’t protected shows the pressure that the U.S. State Department can put on countries to improve the status of religious freedom in their countries.

World leaders can deny the truth all they want, but religious freedom is only gaining ground as an issue of focus on the world stage. Soon, leaders will have to do more than deny the ongoing persecution in their countries. If regimes want to gain international legitimacy and improve their reputation, they must become known as governments which respect the freedom of their people to adhere to their conscience and protect religious minorities from harassment and violence due to their faith.

Arielle Del Turco is the Research Assistant for FRC’s Center for Religious Liberty. Luke Isbell is an intern at Family Research Council.

Snapchat and Instagram Are Turning into Kid Portals for Porn (and Much Worse)

by Family Research Council

July 12, 2019

American children are finding it increasingly difficult to escape the explicit snares of social media. That’s why earlier this week the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on “Protecting Innocence in a Digital World.” Social media platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube have become a harbor for predators, sex trafficking, and pornography.

Families should remain especially conscious of the risks posed by these kinds of platforms in a time when content remains largely unregulated. App stores’ descriptions of social media platforms rarely match the actual maturity of the content. The repercussions of kids’ easy access to pornographic content are shocking and, in some cases, irreversible.

In the hearing, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) succinctly acknowledged that “Child exploitation online is becoming an epidemic.” Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) was blunt about the reality of the situation: “Predators no longer lurk in chat rooms. Predators use the apps our kids use.”

Snapchat and Instagram, the two most used social media apps as of 2018, see 190 million and 500 million daily usersrespectively. The minimum age to download these applications is 12 years old, yet the content on these apps can be alarmingly inappropriate. While app descriptions may warn of “mild infrequent/mild sexual content and nudity, alcohol, drug use, profanity, and suggestive themes,” the content a child might see includes “sextortion, pornography, prostitution and sex trafficking, monetized accounts for sex acts, minimal parental controls, … news articles [also] frequently push: porn, risky sexual behaviors, sexting, drugs and alcohol.”

Even if parents know how to use an app like Instagram, the access to explicit content can be hidden in plain sight: “On Instagram, porn is often hidden behind hashtags and emojis that appear innocuous but are used as secret code to tag and search for particular types of porn.”Though Instagram claims to regulate pornographic material, the content remains readily available. As a result, not only can young people hide their searches with these hashtags, but almost half of them are exposed to explicit online content, and 66 percent of this exposure is unwanted.

The lack of identity verification and content regulation lead to evils even deeper than premature exposure to sexual subjects. Social media apps like Instagram are witnessing a rise in sex trafficking schemes. A recent study from the University of Toledo found that “traffickers connect to vulnerable youth online, groom the children to form quicker relationships, avoid detection, and move the connections from online to in-person.”The study shows that online predators groom children whose posts display “fear, emptiness and disappointment.” They emphasize that parents must protect their children by “monitoring or blocking questionable activity.”

One Michigan father actually saved his daughter from becoming a victim of human trafficking by simply paying close attention to his tween daughter’s social media habits. He recounts, “It began with a picture, a questionably inappropriate one for a girl her age, and the sexy pose set my red flag on fire. So my digging turned into a manhunt checking EVERYTHING in all her accounts.”Portage Police said that the father’s attention to his daughter’s online activity may well have saved the girl from abduction.

Parents must be equipped with the tools to fight the dangers of social media, but they must first recognize the problem. First, as Christians, we must take measures to encourage healthy attitudes towards sex among young people. Our biblical worldview informs us that sex and sexual behavior belong in a marriage between a man and a woman. This ideal is easily challenged and outright denied on social media—not only by groups on the Left, but also by the explicit content so readily available to young users. Secondly, we need to protect our kids from physical harm. Early exposure to explicit content opens the door to pornography addiction and physiologically affects neural learning. Furthermore, social media can easily take dark turns towards the unthinkable for a parent—losing a child to human trafficking.

This is why FRC has partnered with #fixappratings to overcome the challenges that social media can present to the family. We encourage you to join us and learn more about how you can help at fixappratings.com.

How to Talk to Kids about Pornography: 3 Painless Steps

by Kristen Jenson

July 11, 2019

Parents, what conversation is dreaded more than the first one about pornography? I’m not sure there is one! Teaching kids about where babies come from seems simple in comparison. The good news is that it’s not as difficult as you think. I’ve broken it down into three relatively painless steps: start early, empower kids with the basics, and keep on learning and talking!

1. Start Early

How early should you begin warning your child about pornography? The short answer is as soon as they have any access to the internet (or apps that lead to the internet). #SoonerIsSafer! No conscientious parent allows a child access to a busy street without teaching them about the dangers of oncoming cars. It just makes sense to give young kids a gentle warning about harmful content as soon as they are allowed to play on the byways of the internet.

Susan is a very protective mom, and very wise, too. She told me about the time when her 7-year-old son was exposed to pornography by a neighbor. A few days earlier, she had re-read Good Pictures Bad Pictures to her son and reminded him of what to do if he ever saw a bad picture. Although it was distressing, everything worked according to plan! He turned away and went home and told his mom what he had seen. Thankfully, he was prepared!

Children who are caught off guard by pornography are not safe. They are more vulnerable than children who have been warned and given a plan for responding to exposure.

When a parent begins early, it’s not awkward for the child. As the adult, you create the context. Parents continue to tell me that their kids take it well, and that broaching the topic creates an even stronger, more trusting bond with their child.

Don’t be scared—be prepared!

2. Empower Kids with Three Basics

Children need to know three things about pornography:

  • What it is—they need an appropriate definition of pornography.
  • Why it’s harmful—so many kids grow up without a clue that pornography can hurt their young minds—they need good information!
  • How to reject it—a simple plan so they know exactly what to do when they see pornography.

An age-appropriate definition of pornography for a young child gives them just enough information so they can recognize it. In my Good Pictures Bad Pictures series of read-aloud books, I use the following simple definition. “Pornography means pictures, videos or even cartoons of people with little or no clothes on…that focus on the private parts of the body we keep covered with a swimsuit.”

Some critics argue that pornography should not be equated with nudity or else it will cause “body shame.” I take great pains to assure kids that “every part of your body is good, including your private parts. But taking pictures of them and sharing them with others is not good.” Kids are very literal, and nuance is lost on them. Just teach them to come and tell you if they see nudity or near nudity and you can enlighten them if they need additional understanding. For simple tips on how to explain the difference between porn and art to a child, read this blog post.

Explain why it’s harmful. For young children, I use the “picture poison” analogy in my Good Pictures Bad Pictures Jr. book. You’ve already taught them about poison and harmful substances. Pictures can poison the mind, too. Again, reassurance is critical: “There’s something good you can do if you see a bad picture.”

Older children can learn how pornography can become a bad habit or even an addiction. Once kids understand the process of addiction, they have a real opportunity to protect their own brains. Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today’s Young Kids describes how the “thinking brain” and the “feeling brain” can work together to stay safe from addiction. This article from my website ProtectYoungMinds.org contains a simplified explanation of how addictions develop.

3. Give Kids a Plan

It’s common wisdom to teach kids to respond to a fire or active shooter. They need the same “fire drill” for pornography. Thankfully, most children won’t deal with a fire or a shooter, but all of them will need to escape from pornography.

The “escape” plan from Good Pictures Bad Pictures Jr. is simply “Turn, Run and Tell!” Turn away from the bad picture, hurry and get away, and go tell a trusted adult what you saw. The CAN DO Plan from Good Pictures Bad Pictures helps kids not only turn away from it, but to label it by saying “That’s pornography!” This allows kids to have more control over their thoughts by engaging their thinking brain.

Make sure your kids know who they can talk to about pornography exposure wherever they are. Talk to their teachers at school and find out what their plan is for students reporting pornography exposure.  

Finally, help your kids to know how to minimize or “forget” any shocking images they are exposed to by learning to redirect their thoughts to something they get excited about. For example, if they love horses, have them think about saddling up and galloping away! And encourage them to keep practicing—it takes several times, but every time a bad image pops up, just keep thinking about something else. Pretty soon, that memory will begin to fade.

No Child Deserves to Face the Porn Industry Alone

Kids who interface with screens need to know what pornography is, why it’s harmful and what to do when they see it. And they also need constant mentoring. Some families use #TalkTechTuesdays to address all kinds of digital age issues. Whatever day you choose, make sure you keep talking with your kids and listening to their experiences.

I am grateful for caring adults who choose to confront pornography head on so kids won’t have to face it alone. And once you begin the conversation, it gets easier and more comfortable. You CAN DO it.

To get started, check out the free Quick Start Guide for Proactive Parents on ProtectYoungMinds.org.

Kristen A. Jenson, MA is the founder of Protect Young Minds and best-selling author of the Good Pictures Bad Pictures series of read-aloud books. She serves on the Safeguard Alliance founded by the National Center on Sexual Exploitation.

How Prostitution and Sex Trafficking Are Inseparably Linked

by Patrina Mosley

July 11, 2019

This is Part 2 of a series on prostitution. Read Part 1.

There is a very thin line between prostitution and sex trafficking. They are hardly distinguishable in operation, but one is more complicated to prove by law.

Let’s define some terms.

Prostitution is the exchange of sexual activity for money or anything of value (drugs, shelter, etc.).

The Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, which amended the definition of the 2000 Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), defines sex trafficking as “the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, obtaining, patronizing, or soliciting of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act, in which the commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not obtained 18 years of age.”

Under the TVPA, coercion is defined as: “threats of serious harm to or physical restraint against any person; any scheme, plan, or pattern intended to cause a person to believe that failure to perform an act would result in serious harm to or physical restraint against any person; or the abuse or threatened abuse of the legal process.”

Who are the pimps and traffickers? They are the facilitator(s) or person(s) using force, fraud, or coercion for commercial sexual exploitation and collaborators who benefit financially.

According to USLegal.com, “Pimps are people who procures [sic] a prostitute for customers or vice versa, and takes [sic] a portion of the profits from the sexual activities. Supposedly he provides protection for the prostitutes, but quite often he will threaten, brutalize, rape, cheat and induce drug addiction of the prostitutes. A pimp is guilty of the crime of pandering. A pimp is someone who brokers the sexual favors of women for profits.”

Prostitution and sex trafficking operate the same way. There is recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, obtaining, patronizing, and soliciting of a person for sex. When it comes to proving force, fraud, or coercion, that largely depends on evidence and testimony. What woman will say they are a victim of trafficking when their very lives or family’s lives are threatened or if they have fear of leaving the lifestyle they have become accustomed to?

The Many Sides of Coercion

In one Chicago study, 43 percent of young women who were currently under the control of a pimp/trafficker “said they could not leave without physical harm.” Often, victims see their pimp/trafficker as a boyfriend and there is fear of ending the romantic relationship. It is not unusual for victims to be trafficked by a boyfriend, a male friend, or a family member. Females can also be traffickers and pimps.

In 2016, San Diego County conducted a study about the pimps and traffickers in that county. The study provided keen insight into the common characteristics of those being coerced with these findings:

  • Psychological coercion (defined as “social and emotional isolation, induced emotional exhaustion, and degradation, including humiliation, denial of the victim’s power, and name-calling”) and economic coercion (taking 50 percent or more of prostituted person’s earnings) were primary means sex traffickers employ for controlling victims.
  • Pimps reported an average income of $670,625.
  • Researchers determined that middle schools and high schools were significant/frequent places for recruiting girls who become victims of sexual exploitation, and not just in low-income neighborhoods.

Traffickers and pimps prey on women and children who have a history of abuse and neglect, sexual abuse, running away from home, homelessness, lack of education, or other emotional vulnerabilities. They lure them in with promises of meeting some type of need, whether it be economical, emotional, or both. Pimps/traffickers groom their victims to the point where they have control over them psychologically. Often, this is done by introducing drugs as well, which can cause the victims to become addicted and dependent on the pimp to keep them high and locked into the lucrative sex trade to support their new habit.

In that same Chicago study, 29 percent said they were provided drugs to encourage addiction and 23 percent reported drugs were withheld by the pimp to coerce them into prostitution.

According to a 2013 study of 150 countries, sex trafficking increased in the countries where prostitution was legal.

The idea that sex trafficking is involuntary prostitution and prostitution is willing “sex work” is false. The elements are the same except no one is willing to say an underage girl that she is a working professional prostitute—instead, we shout, “sex trafficking.” If she is 18 and above, is she automatically a willing prostitute? The Archives of Sexual Behavior notes: “In a review of reports on adults in prostitution, 84% were trafficked or under pimp control. The numbers of women who choose prostitution from a position of safety, equality, and genuine alternatives is minimal. O’Connell Davidson (1998, p. 5) noted that only a ‘tiny minority of individuals’ choose prostitution because of the ‘intrinsic qualities of sex work.’ Prostitution has to do with one person’s sexual desires and the other person’s economic needs. The money coerces the performance of sex.”

The operation of prostitution is by default coercion in its transactional nature.

Modern-Day Sex Trafficking and Prostitution

Sex trafficking and prostitution rings are way more advanced and sophisticated today than they were 20 year ago. Today, recruitment and transactions largely take place online through social media accounts, the dark web, and ad listings sites such as Craigslist and Backpage. Before the FBI seizure of Backpage, it was the most popular site for traffickers and pimps to trade off their victims. The average age of recruitment for prostitutes is 14 and the average age of pimps and traffickers are between the ages of 18-34. We have become a generation that are exploiting ourselves.

This May in D.C., as efforts to decriminalize prostitution began to wane, local police made arrests in a major human trafficking case involving teenagers:

Terrell Armstead had an Instagram hashtag “#TeamSupreme” for his prostitution business, according to court documents. He used it to advertise a commercial sex business, posting videos and images of money and luxury goods with the caption “Who wants to join TeamSupreme.”

Detectives allege he would direct message teenage girls, telling them they could make $1,000 a day working in strip clubs and arranging sex dates with customers inside…Among the evidence is a text from one of the young women to Armstead saying, “I only made 200 so far.” He replied, “It’s only 9 I got faith that you’ll get 800 more at least.”

D.C. Councilmember David Grosso, who for the second time introduced the bill to decriminalize prostitution, said:

It is long past time for D.C. to reconsider the framework in which we handle commercial sex, and move from one of criminalization to a new approach that focuses on human rights, health and safety.

As reported:

He was surrounded by several people holding signs. One read, “Everyone Deserves to Feel Safe in Their Work,” while another said, “Sex Workers Matter.”

You cannot combat sex trafficking while trying to legalize prostitution. It makes no sense when the two are essentially the same. And, how in the world does legal prostitution equal human rights? Whose rights? Most people in prostitution are either female or transgender women, and the vast majority of buyers are males. To say that prostitution is a human right is by default saying men have a right to use women’s body as a commodity. Why weren’t there signs that said, “Women’s lives matter,” “My body is not a commodity,” or “I’m not for sale, I’m a person”?

Clinical psychologist and founder of Prostitution Research and Education, Dr. Melissa Farley and former prostitute and founder of SPACE International, Rachel Moran came to a clear and disturbing conclusion in their study “Consent, Coercion, and Culpability: Is Prostitution Stigmatized Work or an Exploitive and Violent Practice Rooted in Sex, Race, and Class Inequality?”:

In thousands of interviews, we have heard prostituted women, men, and transwomen describe prostitution as paid rape, voluntary slavery, signing a contract to be raped (in legal prostitution), the choice that is not a choice, and as domestic violence taken to the extreme.

It is ironic, and even cruel, to equate prostitution with “safety” and “human rights.” The sexual exploitation of others is not a right. It is appalling that even in the age of #MeToo, we have politicians who say “its long past time” that we approach paid sex as a human right instead of saying that it is long past time for the exploitation of women to end.

Stay tuned for Part 3, which will take a deeper look at the path forward for going after the perpetrators of sexual exploitation.

State Department’s New Commission Set to Expose Human Rights Abusers

by Arielle Del Turco

July 10, 2019

July 9th marked the four-year anniversary of the launch of a campaign by Chinese officials to crack down on human rights lawyers. Many of these lawyers were arrested, given prison sentences, and tortured behind bars. This tragedy is now referred to as the “709 Incident” because it began on July 9, 2015. Since this date, China has continued to persecute human rights lawyers and activists.

The Chinese government’s crackdown on anyone brave enough to advocate for human rights in China is especially disgusting given that China currently sits on the United Nation’s Human Rights Council.

The fact that shameless human rights abusers can participate in the UN Human Rights Council brings to light an issue that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is trying to address.

On July 7th, Pompeo announced the launch of the Commission on Unalienable Rights. This new panel of scholars, legal experts, and advocates are tasked with reorienting the definition of “human rights” to one that our country’s Founders and the signers of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights would recognize.

Political activists over the past several decades have slowly eroded the proper understanding of human rights from being centered around life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to a catch-all phrase that encompasses everything from abortion to free college tuition.

The confusion over human rights is especially evident in international affairs. The United Nations’ Human Rights Council has shamelessly ignored obvious human rights violations around the world—all while some of the worst violators of human rights claim membership on the council. It’s clear that international institutions tasked with addressing human rights concerns have lost focus on their mission. The Commission on Unalienable Rights is looking to change that.

The commission, which will provide advice, not policy, will take a step back and consider the source and substance of what the Declaration of Independence labeled our “unalienable rights.” Informed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and U.S. founding documents, the commission is intended to provide insight on how we can better define and protect essential human rights.

Pompeo argues that oppressive regimes have abused the term “human rights” and acted as if they were champions of this cause. We can no longer let brutal regimes get away with hiding their heinous actions as they hijack the legitimate and necessary terminology of “human rights.” There must be a universal standard of basic human rights so that countries can be held accountable for violating the fundamental rights of their people. We can hope that this new commission will provide the clarity that is so desperately needed to effectively advocate for those most basic rights which all people are entitled to, but far too many people around the world are denied.

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