Southern Baptist Leaders: 'Fight Porn' Instead of Church's History of White Supremacy, Sex Scandals

Southern Baptist Leaders: 'Fight Porn' Instead of Church's History of White Supremacy, Sex Scandals

NASHVILLE — Southern Baptist religious leaders have compared the current War on Porn in general — and the attack on Pornhub, in particular — to the early Church fight against “pagan culture” and have asked for state censorship of all pornography, calling this constitutionally-protected exercise of free speech “an individual private indulgence” that combines “sexual abuse and trafficking” and “the lie that a fleeting sexual high is at the core of what it means to be human.”

Two important religious leaders have recently advised Southern Baptists to spend more time "fighting pornography" rather than "having debates" about the Church's doctrine or their documented history of white supremacy or sexual abuse cases by clergy.

The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) is one of the largest Christian denominations in the United States. According to their own statistics, the SBC is the largest Protestant group in the U.S. and the second-largest Christian denomination in membership, only surpassed by the Roman Catholic Church.

Katie McCoy, assistant professor of theology in women’s studies at Scarborough College, the undergraduate school of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, told the Baptist Press that Pornhub’s removal of content from unverified uploaders “is little more than an attempt to placate public outrage."

“Pornhub’s executives can hardly plead ignorance that this material was on their platform,” McCoy told Baptist Press. “That makes them complicit in distributing child pornography, of which I’m sure they are aware.”

The Baptist Press also cited Jason Thacker, chair of research in technology ethics for the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, who told them that “it is correct to remove non-consensual videos, especially those involving children and minors, but this dangerous content is still far too easy for someone to access and is leading to a massive delusion inside and outside the church.”

Baptist Press Echoes Kristof's Claims

An article syndicated by the Baptist Press echoes without question Nicholas Kristof’s December 4 exploitative editorial for The New York Times, claiming that Pornhub “was reported to be swarming with rape videos, even of children.”

Kristof mentioned 14 cases in his article but alleged — without providing any evidence or method — that the tube site was “infested” with illegal videos. At the time of his article, Pornhub hosted over 13 million user-uploaded videos, and according to one independent review, 118 instances had been reported and flagged.

The Baptist Press referred to Kristof’s tendentious article, which religious anti-porn group Exodus Cry claims to have spearheaded, as “a watershed column in The New York Times” and the impulse behind “a decision by major credit card companies to investigate the use of their cards for Pornhub material.”

The Baptist Press repeated Kristof’s unverified assertions that Pornhub was “infested with rape videos,” that the tube site “monetizes child rapes” and blurred the distinction between illegal “revenge pornography” and videos of “women being asphyxiated in plastic bags,” which Kristoff acknowledged might be consensual, and therefore likely protected by the First Amendment.

The Push to Connect Pornhub and Backpage Cases

In case these influential SBC leaders were not clear enough that their actual aim was the shuttering of Pornhub by the government, McCoy told the Baptist Press to look at “the federal government’s action against Backpage in 2018 as a precedent for dealing with Pornhub.”

The Baptist Press describes Backpage as “a classified advertising site known for its use in sex trafficking,” without providing any evidence of it “being known” for such a thing.

Classifieds platform Backpage, in fact, was seized by the federal government as part of the campaign to pass FOSTA-SESTA, legislation universally condemned by sex workers and sex work advocates as having increased their vulnerability to predators and bad actors.

The two Backpage owners, Michael Lacey and James Larkin, are currently fighting the federal government on charges that were filed days before Donald Trump signed FOSTA-SESTA into law.

The government has not yet provided any evidence that the Backpage owners were involved in “human trafficking” or that classifieds involving minors were an integral part of the Backpage business model, as the politicians propelling FOSTA-SESTA into law — chiefly Vice President-elect Kamala Harris — repeatedly alleged.

McCoy told the Baptist Press that the government “shut down Backpage because it was a means of child exploitation,” even though those are not the actual charges against Lacey and Larkin.

McCoy also told the Baptist Press that “Kristof’s column demonstrably proves Pornhub and its executives are guilty of the same,” although the column is largely based on 14 victim accounts, some of them one-sentence long, and does not “demonstrably prove” anything besides Kristof’s notions and research interests.

“What we need is a groundswell of concerned citizens to contact their representatives and urge them to hold Pornhub to the same legal standards and punitive measures they imposed upon Backpage in 2018,” McCoy said.

The Baptist Press extolled recent state censorship legislation introduced by Senators Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), all of which were prompted by an unchecked acceptance of Kristof’s arguments in his New York Time editorial.

The Baptist Press also quotes Exodus Cry's Laila Mickelwait, the instigator of the religious campaign Traffickinghub that was avowedly the impulse behind a statement in Kristof's editorial that her intention for Pornhub, regardless of how they respond to her demands, is to “shut it down.”

While Pornhub has announced it will permit uploads only from verified models, Mickelwait tweeted on December 15 that the platform's verification process has for years been “a form of mass consumer fraud — deceiving billions of visitors that the accounts were vetted when no proof of age or consent was required.”

War on Porn Useful to Move Beyond Racist History and Sexual Scandals

Katie McCoy made it clear that she sees the religious crusade against sexual expression in general, and Pornhub in particular, as a unifying campaign to quiet debates within her denomination, and between denominations, including criticism for the SBC’s history of embracing white supremacy, and their delayed response to allegations of sexual abuse by their clergy.

The Southern Baptist church was notorious in the century between the Civil War and the civil rights movement for endorsing white supremacy; historian Wayne Flynt has called the SBC of the 1960s “the last bastion of segregation.”

Only last year — more than a decade after other denominations had their own reckoning — a prominent SBC leader called for the church to confront sexual abuse by clergy, even though "the cost and the difficulty of some of this will be challenging."

An in-depth report by the Houston Chronicle found over 700 victims of religious sexual abuse under the SBC's watch.

Two years ago, the SBC's top leader, Frank S. Page, resigned after acknowledging a "morally inappropriate" relationship. 

But McCoy wants to refocus the conversation to the War on Porn.

“Without minimizing the importance of current theological debates or the ongoing need to ensure doctrinal integrity, I can’t help but wonder how the world might change if we were busy fighting against evil instead of fighting against each other,” McCoy said.

McCoy compared her own War on Porn with converting or destroying pagans in the early years of Christianity.

“When the early Church proclaimed the Gospel, lived holy lives and advocated for the dignity of every human being, they revolutionized their pagan culture,” she told the Baptist Press. “Who says we can’t do the same?”

Religious ethicist Jason Thacker went even further by calling for complete state censorship against sexual expression, calling this constitutionally-protected exercise of free speech “an individual private indulgence” that combines “sexual abuse and trafficking” and “the lie that a fleeting sexual high is at the core of what it means to be human.”

“We are more than simply our bodies, and pornography will never be able to meet the human need for connection and intimacy,” Thacker declared without providing any evidence other than his own religious indoctrination.

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