THE LIGHTED CANDLE SOCIETY NEWSLETTER
By John L. Harmer, Chairman
The two articles in this
newsletter were taken from interviews I had with the Dixie Weekly News and the
Davis County Clipper Newspaper. The word is getting out!
Dixie Weekly News February 22, 2007
By Cami Cox
“Two out of
five teenagers in junior high school and high school here (in Southern Utah)
are regularly accessing pornography on the Internet. And when I say regularly,
I mean that they are not accidentally coming across it, they are intentionally
seeking it out,” former lieutenant governor of California John Harmer said.
Harmer, a lawyer by profession, is president of the national Lighted Candle Society, an organization working to combat pornography and its effects in communities across the United States. The above statistic and others are the findings of professional, independently owned Internet-monitoring groups that have done studies of Internet activity in various Utah counties. Another of these statistics cited by Harmer is that pornography is accessed on one out of five Utah office computers every day. This is just the tip of a huge problem Harmer says is plaguing the nation.
“The incidence of pornography in the country is dramatically increasing,” he said. “The number of people addicted to pornography is dramatically increasing, and, therefore, the consequences of that addiction, including sexually transmitted diseases, divorce, other types of anti-social behavior, are increasing as a consequence of the prevalence of pornography. The Lighted Candle Society, through its three missions, is establishing a chapter in Washington County so that the resources made possible by the Lighted Candle Society can be effectively utilized to turn this tide back the other way.”
The three missions Harmer referred to consist of litigation to prosecute porn distributors nationwide, fundraising to aid anti-pornography groups and also to finance the third facet of the mission, which is research.
Studies on the effects of pornography funded by the LCS give added clout to its litigation efforts, Harmer said. Lawyers throughout the country have signed on as “candle lighters” to do battle with those generating and distributing pornography, but they meet with staggering opposition.
“The Supreme Court of the United States has said that in any law enforcement prosecution in a court against a producer or distributor of pornography, there are three things that the prosecution must prove to get a conviction,” he said. “One of those things they have to prove is that the material involved – and these words are exact quotes from the Supreme Court – 'is patently offensive to contemporary community standards,' unquote. The pornography industry, through the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union), will bring in phony experts, and they are phonies, who will try to prove that this material is acceptable in this community, and if they can prove that, then you can't get a conviction. And so law enforcement officials around the country have had an enormous amount of frustration being able to, in court, know how to understand, how to present evidence of what (in these cities) are contemporary community standards.”
This is part of what the LCS endeavors to alleviate. They do the legwork, Harmer said, providing lawyers with researched statistics and supporting documents to arm them in their legal fights against pornography, including evidence that the communities in which they live do, in fact, find pornography offensive. And what better way, he said, to prove what a community deems acceptable and unacceptable than by having a group, headed by the city's most prominent citizens, that actively opposes pornography?
The Washington County unit of the LCS will be its first such group in the nation, soon to be followed by many others, LCS representatives anticipate. Though the Lighted Candle Society, which has headquarters both in Washington, D.C., and Salt Lake City, has active members all over the country, a formal, independently functioning chapter of the organization has never before been established in a U.S. city, though requests for such groups have come to them from all over the country, from California to Massachusetts.
Harmer and other members of the national LCS board recently visited the St. George area and met with notable community members here to establish a board of trustees for this pilot group.
“Washington County is really a test for us,” he said. “We'll have a core group of people, a critical mass of people, here who understand the problem. As they see in their own community evidence of the problem arising, they can use materials produced by the Lighted Candle Society, and by other groups, to mitigate against the problem. For instance, if somebody decided in Bloomington to open a sexually-oriented business, the pornographic videocassettes, etc., Lighted Candle Society can provide to a local attorney here in St. George all of the legal documents necessary for the community to go after that entity, that individual, and get it out of the community.”
Another important aspect of research being funded by the LCS, Harmer said, deals with the addictive properties of pornography. Though it has not yet been scientifically proven that pornography is addictive, the notion is something the Lighted Candle Society is seeking to ratify.
“Research is being done now on the effect of pornography on the human brain, proving that it is addictive and that, in fact, it's destructive of the brain as a body organ,” Harmer said. “The Lighted Candle Society is raising the money now to bring together what we call a neurologist and neuropsychologist. These are medical doctors who specialize in the human brain.”
LCS hopes that
the research, which will ultimately cost millions of dollars to fund in its
entirety, will result in qualifiable data that viewing pornographic material
incites addictive stimulation in the brain, Harmer said.
Among those who patronize the porn industry, he said it's no mistake that kids and teenagers are a target audience, being a ripe group of potential customers for the multi-billion dollar medium.
“These entities are producing pornography because it's so profitable,” he said. “It is the most profitable business in the world. For dollar invested, you cannot make more money. Even in the drug industry, even in drug distribution, you don't make as much money for the net dollar invested as you do in pornography. And the money is the primary motivation. That's why you have Playboy Magazine sending out fliers to high school graduates in Utah, offering them Playboy free for six months. All of the high school graduates in Davis, Salt Lake and Utah Counties received a postcard solicitation from Playboy offering them Playboy for six months. All they had to do was sign it and send it in.”
Harmer and others of the LCS hope to put an end to such solicitation, as well as nipping pornographic aspirations in the bud before they can take root in more of America's communities.
“We've had very good reception (in St. George),” he said. “The people we've talked to have been enormously receptive. The more response we receive, the greater incentive we'll have, then, to go forward with the whole 21concept.”
Harmer said the name “Lighted Candle Society” comes from the proverb “It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.” To become a member of LCS or for more information, visit them online at www.lightedcandle.org. Harmer said a “Washington County” link will soon be available so that residents of the St. George area can sign on and begin receiving the LCS newsletter.
Those looking for more information, to donate, or purchase
the book, please
go online to www.lightedcandlesociety.org.
Davis County Clipper Newspaper
Harmer: Pornography Damages Teen Brains
Jenniffer Wardell 27 March.07
Can pornography actually damage the teenage brain?
That's one of the assertions Bountiful resident and anti-pornography advocate John L. Harmer makes in his latest book, The Sex Industrial Complex. Exploring MRI research gathered by Dr. Judith Reisman, president of Arizona's Institute for Media Education, the book claims that exposing a young person's developing brain to pornography rewires neural connections to create a lasting addiction to pleasure-inducing brain chemicals Reisman refers to as “Erotoxins."
"Pornography creates a chemical addiction in the same way cigarettes and alcohol do," said Harmer.
In his book, Harmer cites sources from the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the British National Addiction Centre to describe how dopamine, a key drug released by the brain during arousal, has the same effect as cocaine or
speed and can create the same addictions in the brain.
For children and teens, Harmer feels that the addiction could be even stronger and more damaging. The amygdala, the part of the brain that controls fear and other "gut" reactions, develops at a much younger age than the more cognitive frontal lobe, and cites information from the National Institute of Health that says the amygdala is used more often to process images even into the teenage years.
Because of this, Harmer said, when teenagers look at porn the images are not only linked in the brain to feelings of lust, but to other "gut" responses that the teen might be feeling such as anxiety or shame. As an addiction forms, lust becomes permanently linked with the more negative emotions. "Studies have shown that the human brain is the last body organ to mature," he said. "The teenage brain is at risk because it's a long way from being fully developed."
According to Harmer, this information may be the key to fighting back successfully against pornography makers and distributors. As an attorney in Los Angeles, Harmer assisted the district attorney in unsuccessful attempts to prosecute pornographers, and has followed the progress of similar cases all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
"Up until now all the litigation against porn has been criminal, but these studies are developing a basis for civil actions against the pornographers,"
said Harmer. "Especially with online pornography, most people who become addicted did not willingly begin that process.
"It's like the tobacco litigation from a few years ago where the companies claimed that tobacco doesn't cause cancer. If people have no knowledge of the risks involved, there's no way they can assume the responsibility for those risks."
Harmer and the anti-pornography association he founded, The Lighted Candle Society in Salt Lake, are currently raising the necessary funds for a major MRI study that directly explores the negative effects of pornography on the human brain. The cost for such a project is estimated at $2-3 million.
Two years ago the society gathered a panel of neuroscientists from all across the country to develop the protocol for the test, but Harmer said that the technology has changed so much since then that they need to reconvene the panel and develop new protocols. Once this is completed, he expects the actual study to begin sometime in 2008.
"We're only using scientists from outside the state because we don't want there to be an immediate bias against our results," said Harmer. "It's been a lot of work, but the truth needs to come out."
Those looking for more information, to donate, or purchase the book, please go online to www.lightedcandlesociety.org.