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Family group draws BYU into porn fray

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PROVO — Brigham Young University was, in fact, the target of thousands of e-mails generated by a national family group that wants the Marriott hotel chain to stop offering pornographic movies to guests.

Frustrated that the Marriott Corp. has refused to meet with him, Donald Wildmon asked members of three groups he created — American Family Association, One Million Dads and One Million Moms — to send a barrage of e-mails to executives at Marriott and to three e-mail accounts at BYU's business school, the Marriott School of Management.

Wildmon hoped the move would ratchet up the pressure on the hotel chain, said Randy Sharp, director of special projects at AFA.

"The Marriott name is very well-known on the BYU campus," Sharp said. "We wanted to influence the school paper to carry the issue so people there would know the name Marriott does not carry the strong moral interests it once did."

Previous attempts to interview Sharp, Wildmon and other AFA executives failed. BYU's student paper, The Daily Universe, published a story about the flap after a story appeared in the Deseret Morning News.

Many at BYU thought it was a case of mistaken identity. They thought anti-porn missives were blindly sent to the school solely because of its name.

The business school is named for J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott, who built a lodging and restaurant empire worth billions. The Marriotts, who are deceased, gave more than $12 million to BYU and were active members of the LDS Church, which owns the university.

Their son, J.W. Marriott, is chairman of the Marriott Corporation. A company spokesman declined to answer questions but issued this statement:

"We offer a wide variety of entertainment for all audiences in our guest rooms. This is a matter of adult choice, and anyone can quickly and easily block out all adult and all other in-room entertainment offerings by simply calling the front desk."

Sharp said AFA wants BYU to think twice before accepting any more money from the Marriott family.

"If Marriott wants to make another sizable contribution or to build another building in their name," he said, "we want people at BYU to think, 'Maybe we don't want to have a building built with porn dollars.' "

He dismissed arguments that the family's giving has come solely from the Marriott Family Foundation and that the family has little control of a public company with millions of stockholders.

"Mr. Marriott is the chairman of the corporation," Sharp said. "The (family) foundation is funded by the corporation. The Marriott family is all over this issue. They can pass the buck all they want, but the buck stops at the chairman's desk."

BYU officials expressed concern about AFA's tactics.

"If they do have an issue with BYU, they should speak directly to BYU about it and not carry on a campaign through the press," said Joseph Ogden, assistant dean of the business school. "They conducted a mass e-mail campaign and their messages were deleted en masse. If they have an issue with the Marriott Corporation, they should find a way to do that."

Ogden said he couldn't comment on whether BYU would accept future donations from the family, but said the business school didn't have any issue with the Marriott family or the AFA other than the AFA's strategy of pulling BYU into the fray.

Wildmon instigated a campaign against Marriott in September 2003 that he claims hammered Marriott hotel executives with 300,000 e-mails. Last month, he sent messages to AFA members who have asked to be involved in such actions to begin a new campaign against Marriott. AFA directed some of the generic messages to three e-mail accounts at BYU used by the dean of business, the school's alumni magazine and a secretary.

When the editor of the alumni magazine complained, AFA ceased the new barrage, but BYU business dean Ned Hill estimated he received 8,000 e-mails in one day. He was unable to use his computer because it wouldn't stop downloading the messages.


E-MAIL: twalch@desnews.com