Drew Zahn is a WND news editor who cut his journalist teeth as a member of the award-winning staff of Leadership, Christianity Today's professional journal for church leaders. A former pastor, he is the editor of seven books, including Movie-Based Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching, which sparked his ongoing love affair with film and his weekly WND column, "Popcorn and a (world)view."More ↓Less ↑
In the lobby of the University of Texas at San Antonio’s humanities building, a hand-drawn poster announces, “Free porn: Just trade in your holy books (Bible, Koran, Vedas) for porn.”
A student group at the university called The Atheist Agenda is reviving its Bibles-for-porn program, called “Smut for Smut,” for three days beginning March 1, according to a report from San Antonio’s KENS-TV.
“The idea is that religious texts are so appalling,” said Atheist Agenda group member Brian Talker in a 2006 interview with UTSA student publication The Independent. “They are so full of genocide, misogyny and ludicrous ideas that far overshadow any banal common-sense platitudes like loving thy neighbor, that you are better off having porn, which isn’t nearly as smutty.”
A current member of the group told KENS the program is also meant as a slap against religious leaders and the “hypocrisy” of their condemnations of pornography.
“They’ve been going and rallying against pornography for the longest time,” the unidentified student said, “and the disgusting, depraved acts that are within the Bible, Koran and Vedas completely outnumber any [faults] of any pornographic image.”
“As a Christian myself, I just take offense to it,” one student told the TV station.
“Did they really do that?” asked another. “It kinda made me want to cry, it really did.”
University officials have stated that the controversy over the poster and program boils down to protected freedom of speech.
UTSA spokesman David Gabler told KENS, “We are a marketplace of free ideas here at UTSA, and our students have all [the] constitutional rights afforded to all individuals in the United States.”
The Atheist Agenda, founded by students in 2005, launched its first Smut for Smut program in December of that year.
The then-president of The Atheist Agenda, Thomas Jackson, told MSNBC he thought the swap program presented a fair trade:
“Well, first of all, you know, pornography gets a lot of negative press, and it’s smut. A lot of it really is,” Jackson said. “And we wanted to make the comparison between that and the smut that is religious scripture, or a lot of it, you know. The stuff that says a woman is worth half a man, the things that say, you know, you should beat children.
“These things aren’t acceptable in our society,” he continued, “and if pornography is not acceptable, then these things surely aren’t. At the very least, what we’re doing is trading something that’s very, very bad for something that’s only moderately bad.”
In its first Smut for Smut campaign, the San Antonio Express News reports, the atheist group avoided legal problems by placing the explicit magazines in envelopes and storing them in a box under a table. Students also checked IDs to ensure recipients were 18 or older and gave instructions not to view the material in the commons area.
Also in 2005, a rival Christian group established their own booth across the plaza from The Atheist Agenda and offered materials denouncing negative effects of pornography use.
This year, opposing signs have been posted in the same campus lobby, immediately next to the “free porn” poster, and KESN reports websites rallying against the program have already drawn thousands of members.