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Grandmother Leads Fight Against Porn

You’ve been through the tragedy of having your husband die from cancer, leaving you with eight children, the youngest only two-years-old. Later you find the right man to marry, and your children meet his thirteen to bring the total to twenty-one. Over the years, you accept another sixteen young people – with their own distinct challenges – into your home. Not official foster children, just kids who need help.

During all this, you’ve had three hip replacements – two on one side – and open-heart surgery. So why would you have time to get involved in a fight against pornography?

That’s what JoAnn Hibbert Hamilton thought when she was asked by an associate to attend an anti-pornography meeting in her state during the spring of 2000.

It wasn’t that she didn’t think pornography was harmful, but like most of us, she simply “looked the other way” when walking past magazine racks of “adult” material.

During the meeting, it was determined that someone was needed to represent Utah at a national anti-porn conference in Ohio. Since she was already planning to see her son there, she volunteered to leave a few days earlier.

She came back a different woman.

“After the three day conference, I was scared to death about what was happening to homes and families,” says the 64-year-old Parent Television Council member who has “more grandchildren than I can count.”

Returning to the local grocery store she had frequented many times before in the small city of Bountiful Utah, her newfound knowledge of pornography’s dangers allowed her to literally see differently.

“I looked through the eyes of a child to see what they were seeing, and I was appalled,” she stated, while taking notes of what she describes as some of “the most vile things.” Her research would be the foundation for a major change in her community.

Reading the 1986 Attorney General’s Commission on Pornography report, JoAnn realized individual towns and cities had the right to regulate the sale and display of adult materials.

She also recognized it was up to the citizens to take a stand and say what they were willing to accept and reject.

With the support of her local newspaper and volunteers distributing educational leaflets, JoAnn managed to get a civic resolution passed on December 10, 2002 that promoted a standard for children in Bountiful. Since that time, 273 businesses have signed to commit to keep unsuitable materials out of children's sight.

Today JoAnn has become a strong voice of support for protecting children from pornography's lure. She has written a book and serves with many different organizations that allow her to spread the word about the dangers of pornography.

“What I am doing is try to educate the public about community standards,” explains JoAnn. “Three years ago in our city, we had no community standard, and we accepted inappropriate things to be on the shelves for display where minors could see them.”

Now she’s working to help other communities in the United States and Canada create their own standards using a similar process. Through information on her website (www.strengthenthefamily.net) she offers advice and ideas to get grassroots campaigns started.

JoAnn feels there is a misconception that you need a petition with thousands of names to get something done, and instead emphasizes, “People don’t know they can have a community standard. It’s simply a matter of getting organized into small groups.”

“A grocery store manager said, ‘If six to eight people approached me during a week about an offensive product, I can make a change in my store,’” relates the advocate who prefers to focus on education and “gentle persuasion.”

She has also learned there are better ways to approach the issue. For instance she advises to be careful of using the term “pornography,” instead saying, “I’ve had more success in talking about items that are ‘inappropriate for children.’”

Another barrier that leaves many people feeling it’s impossible to set a community standard is the fear such resolutions won’t hold up under legal scrutiny. Not so, says this crusader who advises, “Every community can send in their sexually oriented business ordinance to the American Family Association and their lawyers will evaluate it and make suggestions that will tighten the writing.”

Although never said in words, it’s obvious that JoAnn’s love and concern for children are what keeps this woman moving ahead in such a difficult direction, while facing more than her fair share of life's challenges. And as the ripples of this dedicated grandmother's efforts expand her cause, can anyone count the number of young lives she will touch?

Interested in making changes to your “community standards?” Check JoAnn’s website at http://www.strengthenthefamily.net. If you want a legal opinion on your proposed resolution, contact Randy Sharp at The American Family Association, P.O. Drawer 2440, Tupelo, MS 38803. Phone 1-800-326-4543, ext. 240. Fax 1-662-842-7798

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