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Church honored for role in anti-porn law

The Church has been honored for its role in the passage of an important law prohibiting possession of child pornography, redressing a serious deficiency in the California Penal Code."

On Feb. 26, Los Angeles County Supervisor Pete Schabarum presented the Church a scroll to honor members for their part in successfully supporting a bill that became law Jan. 1 of this year. The law is already being used to prosecute child abusers, said California officials, who hope the law will be a pattern that other states may follow.Keith J. Atkinson, California director of public communications, received the scroll in behalf of Elder Gene R. Cook, who was not able to attend. Elder Cook of the First Quorum of the Seventy is president of the North America West Area.

Elder John K. Carmack of the First Quorum of the Seventy testified in favor of the bill at a hearing in Sacramento last year. Elder Carmack is a former attorney in Southern California.

"Without the support of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and similar religious organizations which you helped bring together, this bill would not have passed through the legislature," said Schabarum.

The recognition luncheon also honored others who helped from the bill's inception through passage, including representatives of the Los Angeles County Counsel, the district attorney's office, the Los Angeles City attorney's office, and the U.S. attorney's office, who helped in drafting the bill.

The law, which went into effect Jan. 1 of this year, prohibits possession of child pornography, and makes the second and subsequent offenses a felony. Law enforcement officers say that child abusers almost universally have collections of such pornography. The law makes possible prosecution of child abusers without the testimony of the victims.

"The material speaks for itself," said Roger Clark, a high councilor and lieutenant in the county sheriff's department. "If a child is too young or too embarrassed to testify, charges can still be filed. This law will spare a lot of children."

He said that it is particularly significant that the law was passed in California because 85 percent of the child pornography is produced in Southern California.

Child abusers characteristically view such material before committing a crime, use it to break down the resistance of a victim, and create new material to extort the victim once the crime has been committed, said Clark, who has been a deputy sheriff for 24 years.

Organizations also involved in the effort to pass Assembly Bill 2233 included Care, the West Coast division of the National Coalition Against Pornography; the Religious Alliance Against Pornography; the Catholic Archdiocese Obscenity & Pornography Commission; Knights of Columbus; Parent-Teacher Associations; and labor unions.

(A sculpture was presented in January by the Church to Archbishop Roger Mahony of the Los Angeles Archdiocese for his efforts in passing the bill.)

Tonja S. Clark, Lt. Clark's wife, is vice president of the Los Angeles County Commission on Obscenity and Pornography. She and Dolores Nason, president of the commission, created the child pornography subcommittee, which was the genesis of the bill.

When the law was introduced into the Assembly in Sacramento where similar laws had previously been killed, legislators received up to 800 telephone calls or letters a week.

"When the bill was first introduced, people didn't think it had a prayer," said LeAnne Hutchings, director of community relations for the Church's Southern California Public Communications Council.

"This bill had a remarkable and notable effect in Sacramento because of the intense citizen involvement," she said. "It became the talk of the hill."

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