Utah governor seeks money for anti-porn fight


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Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R) has asked his state’s legislature to allocate $50,000 in taxpayer funds to a nonprofit group that fights pornography.

Herbert included the request in his 103-page, $16 billion budget proposal, submitted to legislators last week, alongside bigger line items to fund new voting machines, a tourism marketing campaign and defense lawyers for low-income offenders.

“I am already on record that pornography is a public health issue,” Herbert told The Salt Lake Tribune, which first reported the request. “This effort is an effective way to empower parents with practical methods to protect their families from the dangers of pornography.”

The money will fund the Utah Coalition Against Pornography, a private nonprofit organization led by one of Herbert’s close advisers, Pamela Atkinson. The group holds conferences around the state; it has two events planned for 2017, in Salt Lake City and St. George. It receives most of its funding from conservative foundations and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Utah legislators have occasionally funded anti-pornography efforts in the past. The state funded an Obscenity and Pornography Complaints Ombudsman, dubbed the “Porn Czar,” for two years beginning in 2001.

Earlier this year, Herbert signed two measures aimed at pornography. One measure declared pornography a “public health hazard” linked to “lessening desire in young men to marry, dissatisfaction in marriage, and infidelity.” Another strengthened punishments and oversight for possession of child pornography.

Studies have found that pornography usage is unusually high in otherwise deeply conservative and deeply religious Utah. A 2009 Harvard Business School study found Utah had the highest rate of subscriptions to pornographic websites per 1,000 people of any state in the union.

Almost three in four Utahans told the state’s leading pollster earlier this year they agreed pornography is a public health crisis.

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