It isn’t often that the Usual Suspects in liberal Protestantism do something that I can unequivocally get behind, so when there is I need to say so. Led by activists at Auburn Seminary (PCUSA), they are pressuring Village Voice Media to close their Backpage.com adult solicitation web site in order to prevent sex trafficking of boys and girls. Their organization, called Groundswell, has written an open letter to VVM in an attempt to persuade CEO Jim Larkin to do the right thing:
It is a basic fact of the moral universe that girls and boys should not be sold for sex.
So we were surprised and stunned to realize your company, Village Voice Media, continues to publish an Adult section on its classifieds Web site Backpage.com that has been used as a platform for the trafficking of minors.
Arrests of adults selling minors for sex via Backpage.com have been reported by the media in Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, Ohio, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin. And these are just some of the cases thathave been documented.
As moral and religious leaders of many creeds and backgrounds, we are united in calling on your publication to shut down the Adult section of Backpage.com. We appreciate your efforts to put in place new measures attempting to screen for ads featuring minors. However, we do not believethat these measures are doing enough to adequately solve the problem, and we share the opinion of the nation’s 51 Attorneys General that the bestway to eradicate your company’s connection with the sex trafficking of minors is to shut down the Adult section of your Web site, as Craigslist did.
We trust that your company shares our outrage over the sex trafficking of minors. While we empathize with your business challenges and the increasingly difficult marketplace in which Village Voice Media competes, we trust that you are committed to running your business without compromising the lives of our nation’s girls and boys.
We know there is much more to be done to end the sex trafficking of minors beyond what we ask of you. Ending this practice for good requires agroundswell of people in our business, media, and religious communities joining together in partnership. We need educational campaigns and robust law enforcement to challenge all dimensions of the problem, including the poverty and abuse at the root of the practice.
But we can do something right now to help these girls and boys. Please shut down the Adult section of Backpage.com immediately so that no minor isexploited through advertisements on your Web site.
I might not have phrased everything the way they did, and could point out the ways that their advocacy of sexual license has contributed to an environment in which the sex traffic (not just of children, but adult women as well) could flourish. I certainly find their solicitude for Village Voice Media’s “business challenges” laughable in the face of their efforts, however unsuccessful, to destroy the businesses of any of a number of other corporations with whom they disagree. But then, they and VVM are ideological bedfellows, so I suppose that’s not surprising. Nonetheless, I hope that they are willing to take the next step, if VVM refuses, to call for a boycott of all VVM products, including the Village Voice itself.
But here’s the real point: on this particular issue, they are on the side of the angels. Virtually anything that makes sex trafficking of children more difficult should be supported. To ask VVM to shut down a web site as reprehensible as Backpage.com’s adult section is a no-brainer. This is one of those things on which liberal and conservative Christians should have no difficulty agreeing and cooperating.
So do children a favor: swallow your distaste of being seen on the same side of anything as Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefforts-Schori, or Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson, or NCC General Secretary Michael Kinnamon, or Jim Wallis, and sign the petition. Tell VVM to get out of the child prostitution business.