Christians and Muslims Join Forces on a Common Obsession: Hotel Porn

Once again, fundamentalist theologians are attempting to invade the right to individual privacy.  Two well-respected religious scholars have collaborated to attempt to end access to adult movie channels in hotel rooms.  Setting aside their theological differences, Dr. Robert George, The McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence, Director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals Institutions at Princeton University, and past chairman of the National Organization for Marriage, teamed with Shaykh Hamza Yusuf from Zaytunga College.  When theological differences were mentioned, Yusuf told CNN, “We need to see that those things that are threatening our society are much graver than anything that may divide us.”

The two academics coauthored a letter to the CEOs of Choice, Hilton, Hyatt, Marriott, and Starwood hotels.  They requested a ban on all adult entertainment sales in private hotel rooms “as a commitment to human dignity and the common good.”  They argue that “there’s a point of view that you can either speak out against what’s wrong or you can stay silent.  And if you stay silent” (it is) “a sign of agreement.”

In 2011, Marriott International, which was founded by and continues to have strong ties to the Mormon Church, began removing access to porn movies. Omni, a Dallas-based hotel removed access to in-room movies containing adult content in 1999; they now use that fact as a niche marketing wedge. Cleanhotels.com is a website that already guides those wanting porn-free hotel rentals to locations offering that option.

But are their efforts still relevant?  Statistics have shown that the majority of room renters now access the Internet to bring pornography into their hotel rooms, not through a direct purchase from any hotel.  PKF Hospitality Research results showed that there has been a 39 percent decrease in hotel movie rentals between 2000 and 2009.  Therefore, hotels did have more control over what was being viewed in rented rooms in the past, but for over a decade, that power has been significantly decreased.  Rest assured that, in the same time period, public interest in accessing pornography has not decreased.  Worldwide, the porn industry is a thriving $57 billion dollar annual business; $12 billion is spent in the United States alone.

Although it’s unlikely that pressure from two people, religious leaders or not, would force these hotel giants to fold and restrict entertainment choices, thus losing revenue, what if it did work?  Or what if these two people had the support of very large influential organizations?  If fundamentalists can force private businesses to do what they want, how much effect could they have on businesses to help further the fundamentalist agenda?  Author Sean Faircloth thinks that line has already been crossed.  His latest book, Attack of the Theocrats, states, “The Christian fundamentalists have secured special rights in Congress and the states. Fundamentalists have secured billions of tax dollars that are in turn used to help them achieve their political ends.”  At what point will those political ends infringe on all government and corporate activities?

Faircloth states that Thomas Jefferson felt “that his crafting of the Virginia Status for Religious Freedom served as the basis for the separation of church and state in our Constitution, …the separation of church and state stands out as a singularly brilliant accomplishment in human history.”  Yet, Faircloth reminds us that every day an incremental erosion of personal freedom and choice is taken a step further by those who honestly believe that the United States is a Christian country.

While attempts like this to control the free will of others and remove the wall of separation may ultimately fail, others are far more damaging.  Consider Texas evangelist David Barton, who has written his own (disproven) account of American history, portraying our forefathers as deeply religious people who wanted the US to be a Christian nation.  He’s just plain wrong, and there’s plenty of evidence to support it.  The disheartening part is that he has thousands if not millions of followers, hanging on his every word, eating it all up without any attempt to verify his account.  In fact, he has played a part in rewriting Texas public school history books to support his evangelical agenda.  NPR published a telling story about his habit for fabricating historical facts.  He’s so influential in fact, that he’ll be speaking at the 2012 Republican National Convention to win us over on his vision for a United States of Theocracy.

Because of these types of attempts to take fundamental freedoms away from people who do not subscribe to the same mythical superstitions as the squeakiest wheels in society begging for grease, I am grateful to organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, and the Freedom From Religion Foundation.  We must do everything we can to ensure that church and state remain separate in this country, so that the US remains free and our children and grandchildren have the same rights that we enjoy, or more.  The Founding Fathers had the right idea, despite the false claims of the Religious Right.

About Kevin Davis

Kevin Davis is the head writer and editor for SecularVoices, and the author of Understanding an Atheist: A Practical Guide to Relating to Nonbelievers, a book aimed at improving relationships between the religious and their atheist loved ones. Kevin is also the Executive Director of Young Skeptics, an elementary-level after-school program for kids focused on critical thinking. Guest bloggers are welcome at SecularVoices. Please email submissions to contact@secularvoices.org.

  • http://pinkagendist.wordpress.com pinkagendist

    idiots united under idiocy.