Coalition Runs Full-Page Ad in The New York Times, Calls on Village Voice to Shut Down Adult Section of Its Web site Backpage.com Appeal Follows Similar Request from 51 Attorneys General
NEW YORK, Oct. 25, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Thirty-six prominent clergy have appealed to Village Voice Media to end the sex trafficking of girls and boys made possible by its Web site, Backpage.com, in a full-page New York Times advertisement today. The advertisement featured a letter from the clergy in which they called on Village Voice company executives to immediately shut down the Adult section of its Web site where this activity is taking place. The clergy also launched a nationwide petition in partnership with Change.org's more than one million members.
The newly formed multifaith coalition is made up of mainline Christians, Catholics, Jews, evangelical Christians, Muslims, Sikhs, Humanists and other moral and religious leaders. Groundswell, Auburn Seminary's social action initiative, convened the group.
"Village Voice Media CEO Jim Larkin and his Board of Directors need to stop Backpage.com from serving as a platform for the sex trafficking of girls and boys immediately. For over a year, advocates have demanded action, but the responses they have been given are half-measures and delays. We are tired of Village Voice's delay tactics," said The Rev. Dr. Katharine Henderson, President of Auburn Seminary. "The only way to end the sale of minors for sex on Backpage.com is by shutting down the Adult section for good."
Arrests of adults using Backpage.com to sell minors for sex have been reported by the media in a number of states, including Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, Ohio, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin. The National Association of Attorneys General has "tracked more than 50 instances, in 22 states over three years, of charges filed against those trafficking or attempting to traffic minors on Backpage.com," it wrote in an August 31, 2011 letter to Backpage. Fifty-one Attorneys General have signed on to that letter. Access the letter from the Attorneys General here.
Backpage.com asserts it has put in place "effective measures" to prevent child prostitution from occurring on its Web site, yet it is still happening. According to the letter from the Attorneys General, even Backpage.com Vice President Carl Ferrer has admitted this, stating "the company identifies more than 400 'adult services' posts every month that may involve minors." The Attorneys General maintain that it is "very difficult to accurately detect underage human trafficking," and therefore call on Backpage.com to "eradicate" child sex trafficking on its Web site by shutting down the Adult section. The clergy join them in this call.
"As a pastor I have seen the devastating effects of the sex trafficking of minors first hand. It is a moral abomination," said Rev. Otis Moss, III, Pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ. "My message to Village Voice Media is this: protect these young girls and boys by immediately taking down the Adult section of Backpage.com."
Today, Groundswell begins an all-out public push to pressure Village Voice Media to close the Adult section of Backpage.com. Groundswell will rally additional clergy and Americans of moral commitment to sign a petition and join in its call to Village Voice Media. The clergy still welcome the opportunity to meet with the Board of Directors of Village Voice Media to discuss their concerns.
"We know there is much more to be done to end the sex trafficking of minors beyond what we're asking of Village Voice Media," said Valarie Kaur, Sikh-American activist and Director of Groundswell. "We need educational campaigns, robust law enforcement, and solutions to the poverty and abuse at the root of the practice. But we can do something right now to shut down a prominent commercial platform used for the sex trafficking of girls and boys."
The following spokespersons are available for comment:
The Rev. Dr. Katharine Henderson, President, Auburn Seminary
Isaac Luria, Organizing Director, Groundswell
Rabbi Sharon Brous, Senior/Founding Rabbi, IKAR
Bishop Minerva Carcano, Bishop of the Phoenix Episcopal Area, United Methodist Church
The Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, General Secretary, National Council of Churches
The Rev. Dr. Jacqueline J. Lewis, Senior Minister, Middle Collegiate Church
The Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III, Pastor, Trinity United Church of Christ
The Rev. Dr. Raphael G. Warnock, Senior Pastor, The Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church
The 36 signers of the clergy letter are: Imam Shamsi Ali, Islamic Cultural Center of New York; Imam Abdullah T. Antepli, Muslim Chaplain, Duke University (Durham); Rabbi Marcelo Bronstein, B'nai Jeshurun (New York City); Rabbi Sharon Brous, Senior/Founding Rabbi, IKAR (Los Angeles); Sister Simone Campbell, SSS, Executive Director, NETWORK; Bishop Minerva Carcano, Bishop of the Phoenix Episcopal Area, United Methodist Church; The Rev. Peg Chemberlin, President, National Council of Churches, Executive Director, Minnesota Council of Churches; Rabbi Gilah Dror, President, The Rabbinical Assembly; Greg M. Epstein, Humanist Chaplain, Harvard University; Bishop Yvette Flunder, Founder/Pastor, City of Refuge UCC, Executive Director/CEO, Ark of Refuge, Inc. (San Francisco); The Rev. Dr. James A. Forbes, Minister Emeritus, The Riverside Church (New York City); Rabbi Steve Gutow, President/CEO, Jewish Council for Public Affairs; The Rev. Alison Harrington, Pastor, Southside Presbyterian Church (Tucson); The Rev. Dr. Steven A. Hayner, President, Columbia Theological Seminary (Decatur); The Rev. Dr. Katharine Henderson, President, Auburn Seminary; Valarie Kaur, Director, Groundswell; The Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, General Secretary, National Council of Churches; The Rev. Peter Laarman, Executive Director, Progressive Christians Uniting; Imam Khalid Latif, Executive Director and Chaplain, lslamic Center at New York University; The Rev. Dr. Jacqueline J. Lewis, Senior Minister, Middle Collegiate Church (New York City); Rabbi J. Rolando Matalon, B'nai Jeshurun (New York City); The Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III, Pastor, Trinity United Church of Christ (Chicago); The Rev. T. Kenjitsu Nakagaki, Past President, Buddhist Council of New York; The Rev. Stephen H. Phelps, Interim Senior Minister, The Riverside Church (New York City); The Right Rev. V. Gene Robinson, Bishop of New Hampshire, The Episcopal Church; Rabbi David Saperstein, Director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism; The Rev. Dr. Donna Schaper, Senior Minister, Judson Memorial Church (New York City);Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, Executive Vice President, The Rabbinical Assembly (New York City); The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop and Primate, The Episcopal Church; Dr. Rajwant Singh, National Chairman, Sikh Council on Religion and Education; Rabbi Felicia Sol, B'nai Jeshurun (New York City); The Rev. Jim Wallis, President/CEO, Sojourners; The Rev. Dr. Raphael G. Warnock, Senior Pastor, The Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church (Atlanta); The Rev. Dr. Scott Weimer, Senior Pastor, North Avenue Presbyterian Church (Atlanta); and Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie, President, Union for Reform Judaism.
SOURCE Auburn Seminary