Utah officially declares porn to be a public health crisis
Surprised woman facepalms (Shutterstock)

Utah on Tuesday declared pornography a public health hazard and mandated that computer technicians who find child pornography on a computer to report it to law enforcement authorities in Republican-backed moves supported by the Mormon Church.

The resolution declares pornography an epidemic that normalizes violence against women and children and makes men less likely to want to get married.

It was signed by Republican Governor Gary Herbert after being passed by the Republican-led legislature in the conservative and heavily Mormon state with the support of the Utah Coalition Against Pornography, backed by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

"The volume of pornography in our society is staggering," Herbert said at a bill signing ceremony in Salt Lake City, Utah's capital. "I want to protect our families and our young people."

Supporters said Utah's moves would help combat human trafficking, pornography addiction and rape.

The resolution calls on the state legislature to research the impact of pornography and invest in education and efforts to prevent its production and use. It declares pornography "a public health hazard leading to a broad spectrum of individual and public health impacts and societal harms."

Herbert also signed a bill requiring technicians who find child pornography while working on someone's computer to report it, making it a misdemeanor for them to fail to do so.

At the signing ceremony, anti-pornography activist Jennifer Brown said viewing pornography derails healthy emotional and physical development in children and adolescents and fosters addition to it. She called the pornography industry an "empire of destruction" driven by financial greed.

"Pornography is more dangerous than secondhand smoke," Brown said. "If we can go against second-hand smoke and make such a difference, we can go against the pornography industry."

The Free Speech Coalition, an industry association representing adult entertainment producers, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the Utah measures.

Elder Jeffrey Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, one of the Mormon Church's governing bodies, last month delivered the keynote address to the anti-pornography coalition's annual meeting, calling pornography a plague that tears the moral fabric of society.

In 2009, a study by Harvard Business School professor Benjamin Edelman showed that Utah had the highest per-capita rate of purchasing online adult-entertainment subscriptions in the United States.

Since the study was released, some Utah groups, including the website FairMormon.org, have disputed its results and questioned its methodology.

(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein in Sacramento, California; Editing by Will Dunham)