Antiporn Campaigners File Grand Jury Petitions in Kansas City

Tod Hunter
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Leaders of local churches delivered petitions to courthouses in six local counties in both Kansas and Missouri on Thursday, seeking grand jury investigations of 32 businesses for "promotion of obscenity." The businesses include strip clubs, sex shops and video rental stores.

The petition drive started in April, under the leadership of The National Coalition for the Protection of Children and Families. Petitions were available for download from the NCPCF website and were specific to each county, naming individual businesses, with addresses and telephone numbers, that may have violated the appropriate Kansas or Missouri state law.

"It went very well,” Phillip Cosby, executive director of the Kansas City chapter of the National Coalition for the Protection of Children & Families, told XBIZ. “There was a meeting that culminated the delivery of a little over 20,000 signatures of registered voters in the six-county area."

"It was fairly dramatic to hit six counties in the same day. The prosecutors received the petitions well. We have had good conversations with them about the Missouri and Kansas obscenity statutes. We want the community standards question allowed and asked in the Kansas City area.”

Cosby has previously led campaigns against adult bookstores and sex shops in central Kansas, taking advantage of a little-used Kansas law that allows citizens to call for grand jury investigations.

Thursday's petitions are likely to trigger grand jury investigations in Kansas, but Missouri has no means for the public to call for grand jury investigation. The prosecutors from the Missouri counties issued a joint statement Thursday saying they are alerting businesses to be aware of the state’s obscenity law.

"We would hope that the prosecutors on the Missouri side are moved to listen to those people in Missouri that did sign, asking that the obscenity statutes be enforced. But it is up to their discretion," Cosby told XBIZ. A letter the Jackson County, Mo., prosecutor’s office sent to retail store Bazooka’s in Kansas City did little more than spell out Missouri’s obscenity law, which ties the definition of obscenity to “contemporary community standards” — standards that are decided by juries.

NCPCF needed 770 signatures of registered voters in Wyandotte County and 3,863 in Johnson County to investigate eight businesses in those Kansas counties, and they ended up with significantly more signatures in each, according to Cosby.

The group also collected about 8,200 signatures in Jackson County, Mo., home to the majority of its targets.

"These efforts will fail. The wisdom of the Framers of the Constitution will prevail," 1st Amendment attorney Jeffrey Douglas told XBIZ. "But these misguided fanatics will cause great hardship to the men and women who work at these businesses and who patronize these businesses. It is another sad day for free expression and community trust."