The Common Good

Should We Tolerate Legalized Prostitution?

This week has been eventful in Australia. At the launch of The Salvation Army's Red Shield Appeal -- a new fund-raising initiative -- a group of sex workers from Scarlett Alliance (a local sex workers collective) stormed the event as a public protest against The Salvation Army. They were upset over one of the ads for the Red Shield appeal, which featured the story of a male prostitute stuck in a terrible situation including drug addiction. The Salvation Army flew him to a detox and treatment program and now he testifies to a better life. The suggestion that if you give to The Salvation Army you are helping others like him was offensive to the sex workers.

For those of you who aren't from this part of the world and not caught up on the legislative nightmare that is legalized prostitution in Australia, there are three other articles that you may want to check out on theRubicon.org (Victims or whores | Banishing wickedness | Gunilla rocks). But this particular incident sums it all up pretty well: To help someone out of prostitution and then to tell others about it is to attack the good-natured, work-friendly face that is legalized prostitution in Australia (and elsewhere).

The truth about prostitution, however, is anything but good-natured or work-friendly. Those involved in prostitution struggle with complex situations that can include post-traumatic stress syndrome, drug addiction, family violence, work violence, and a myriad of other psychological dysfunctions that the degradation of sexual exploitation bring with it; and The Salvation Army repeatedly helps numerous people in all of these situations. Unfortunately, in reaction to the Scarlett Alliance's objections, The Salvation Army's response was to apologize and remove the offending ad from the campaign.

For me this raises questions about our response to injustice and its collision with corporate needs and financial structures -- seemingly a constant and consistent tension around the world.

Now, I do want to be fair as I know there is great wisdom in picking your fights and refusing to allow a small group to hijack an entire national campaign launch. After all, why should we give Scarlett Alliance free publicity to promote their agenda? In some ways the Army's quick apology and instant withdrawal was a way of ending the issue immediately -- gone are the news cameras and the attention that Scarlett Alliance craves, and that's smart.

On the other hand, when do we have those discussions? When do we talk to the nation of Australia and tell them what we know for certain to be true -- that prostitution is an evil institution that strips everyone involved of their dignity and value and worth? When do we speak about what is involved in cleaning up hundreds of lives as a direct result of the injustice and exploitation people find themselves involved with as they are used and then discarded by society? When is it time to raise concerns that legalized prostitution in Australia has only succeeded in increasing human trafficking, sky-rocketing the illegal sex-industry crime sector, and luring young girls into prostitution before they reach the age of 15 ? When do we stand up and say, "Actually, I'm glad you brought this up -- we are tired of apologizing for cleaning up a mess that this society has brought on itself by its refusal to pay attention to the social costs of legalizing an evil industry."?

If it were William Booth directing the Red Shield Campaign in Australia this week, I can't help but think he may have pulled out the horses. Yep, get the horses out because this week we are going to march to Parliament and tell them that the evil they hide in their own habits and the poor haunts of our cities is the very evil we are this day exposing and bringing to light. The evil of prostitution results in a sick society and an erosion of women's rights around the globe, and we are tired of slogans and governments turning a blind eye to truth in the name of political correctness and "tolerance" gone nuts.

Of course, it was William who mentioned something about loving a fight. But in today's justice fights, many churches and Christian institutions seem to be tempered by financial targets, corporate responsibility, and public relations strategies. It's an older church now with more to lose than to gain by fighting

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