Salt Lake City therapist Victor Cline has no doubt pornography is as addictive as crack cocaine.

His patients, like tens of thousands of pornography addicts he says are treated nationwide, know they'll lose their families if they continue the indulgence. They know they'll lose their careers, their cash. But they just can't help themselves.

"Pornography and sex addictions are part of our popular cultures. The big question now is how do we heal those who have been wounded, and how do we protect our children from harm?" said Cline, professor emeritus from the University of Utah's psychology department. "We need to do everything possible to support additional research and work in this area."

The Lighted Candle Society is working to do just that.

The society, with offices in Washington, D.C., and Centerville in Davis County, was created last year to finance scientific research and distribute information about the "devastating impact of pornography upon the mind."

Establishing scientific proof could come with the help of functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI — a society endeavor expected to cost $3 million over a two-year clinical trial, chairman John L. Harmer said.

"We have lost ground continually," Harmer said, referring to his 40 years of fighting against pornography. "Now, we have the potential for a silver bullet. It will produce a financial liability to distributors. If you can take the profit out of pornography, it will . . . push the demons of pornography back into the gutter where they belong."

Harmer's and Cline's statements came at a Wednesday night fund-raiser for the Lighted Candle Society. Some 430 community leaders, from Lt. Gov. Gayle McKeachnie to Episcopal Bishop of Utah Carolyn Tanner Irish, attended the $150-a-plate event, the second held in Salt Lake City.

Proceeds mostly will help defend entrepreneurs sued by movie producers for editing out scenes of sex and violence to create family friendly videos and DVDs.

Mapping pornography's negative effects on the brain is dubbed the society's most exciting work. Judith Reisman, president of the Institute for Media Education in Granite Bay, Calif., believes fMRI research will give scientific proof that pornography is addictive, physically damaging and linked to eventual anti-social behavior.

Armed with such proof, the billion-dollar porn industry could be brought down in the same way as Big Tobacco, Harmer hopes.

Reisman spoke after press time.

The society also works to enforce laws prohibiting pornography production and distribution. It also has supported the Utah Coalition Against Pornography, whose chairman, the Most Rev. George Niederauer, bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City, was honored at the fund-raiser for his efforts.

The award was accepted by diocese vicar general Monsignor Terrence Fitzgerald.


E-mail: jtcook@desnews.com