MONTEBELLO — A newly formed anti-pornography group will hold a "community awareness" rally today in an effort to persuade Assemblyman Charles M. Calderon to support legislation to make it easier to curb the sale of sexually explicit material.
The group, Concerned Clergy and Laity, says that Calderon (D-Montebello) is the swing vote in the Assembly committee considering the bill. But a spokesman for Calderon said the assemblyman will not attend the rally.
Local church leaders and members who formed the group say they have been working since November to gain support for the bill, AB 365, because it would give communities more control over pornographic material.
Definitions Would Mesh
The bill would change California's definition of obscene material. In 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court--in a case called Miller v. California--gave states flexibility in defining obscenity. The decision allows states to define obscenity according to local values and removes the necessity of finding that the material is "utterly without redeeming social importance."
The California standard, however, still requires that obscene material be "utterly without redeeming social importance," according to an analysis by the bill's author, Assemblywoman Marian W. La Follette (R-Northridge). The bill would change that.
The Rev. Thomas Lamb of the Cross and Crown Lutheran Church, who heads the group, said that the organization has received support from the City Council, which passed a resolution Dec. 9 supporting the bill. He said the group has about 90 members.
Concern to Be Aired
Mayor Pro Tem Bill Molinari, a scheduled speaker at the rally, said Calderon has been invited to hear the community's concerns over pornography in general in an effort to enlist his support for the bill. The meeting is scheduled at 7:30 p.m. in the council chambers.
"We want to help build up community support to show our state representative we do have a concern about this." Molinari said.
But an aide to Calderon, who was not available for comment, said the assemblyman will not attend the rally.
Mike Burns, a spokesman for Calderon, said the assemblyman has received about 300 letters of support for the bill from people both inside and outside the 59th District, which also includes Pico Rivera, Monterey Park, Alhambra and parts of Whittier.
No Position Taken
"At this point, he doesn't really have a position" on the bill, Burns said.
He said Calderon has just returned from a two-week trip to the Soviet Union and will not attend the rally because he wants to spend time with his family.
Lamb expressed disappointment when he learned the assemblyman would not be able to attend, but said the group was still going to have the rally.
The minister said that when community members approached city officials and police with concerns about the easy accessibility of pornographic material, they were told of the current standard. "People here are unable to remove newsstands with an open display of pornography. It could be purchased by anybody," Lamb said.
Community Control Sought
"The concern we have is to return the control of the moral and social environment back to the community," said Lamb, adding that the bill would make it easier for local communities to regulate the display and sale of pornographic materials.
The group, he said, is mainly concerned about children's access to sexually explicit material.
"We're not talking censorship. I don't think it should be available to young children. It's a serious concern for parents," Molinari said. "We need to do something that would allow us to gain local control on this type of issue."
Lamb said the group has targeted Calderon because he sits on the Assembly's Public Safety Committee, which is expected to vote on the bill Jan. 13. The bill first came up for a hearing in May. Three members voted in favor and four abstained, including Calderon. Ron Kester, a legislative assistant at La Follette's Sacramento office, said that vote was rescinded so the bill could come up for a second hearing.
Potential Swing Vote
Calderon is the "potential swing vote," said Molinari, who added that if Calderon votes in favor, there would be enough votes to move the bill onto the Assembly floor.
Kester said this bill has been introduced every year since 1975, although not always by La Follette. "If it gets out of committee, it will be a historic event," Kester said.
Other speakers at the rally will be Stephanie Kennedy, a member of the Los Angeles County Commission on Obscenity and Pornography;Father William J. Wood, executive director of the California Conference of Bishops; Montebello Police Chief Les Sourisseau ; Father Charles Massoth of St. Benedict's Catholic Church in Montebello;and the Rev. Lou Sheldon, who heads the California Coalition for Traditional Values.