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In Exodus Cry, the cross-eyed evangelical group with Trump goes to war on Pornhub

AAt first glance, the small group gathered outside Pornhub’s Los Angeles office might have looked like employees. They surrounded the building in black T-shirts with white lettering, framed by the adult site’s signature orange box. Instead of the standard logo, however, the tees read “Traffickinghub”.

The sparse and socially remote protest, which takes place weekly, was organized by the West Coast branch of Knock Out Abuse, the domestic violence non-profit organization whose annual gala, once referred to as a “bachelorette party”. ” speak Washington Post, attracts a roster of DC insiders and business executives including Hillary Clinton, Senator Kristen Gillibrand and Wolf Blitzer.

The catalyst for the protest, however, was not a member of KOA: a blonde woman named Laila Mickelwait. Mickelwait, who arrived in Traffickinghub gear, describes himself as someone who has been fighting the problem of sex trafficking for the past decade. In February, Mickelwait published an op-ed in Washington Examiner titled “It’s time to shut down Pornhub.”

The article featured suspected cases of exploitation on the platform to claim that the adult tube site hosted “hundreds, if not thousands, of videos of underage victims of sex trafficking.” The alleged intention was to raise awareness of exploitation and trafficking. But after some positive feedback, she made a campaign of it. The first move was a petition, titled: “Stop Pornhub and Hold Its Leaders Accountable for Aided Trafficking.”

The petition appeared to go viral – at the time of publication, it claims to have 2,133,098 signatures, although the number has not been verified. The petition is hosted on a private domain, which means that its display is subject to the whims of its owner. But as the popularity of the #SavetheChildren movement adjacent to QAnon has grown over the summer, Mickelwait’s campaign made garnering attention, sparking several anti-Pornhub protests in the United States and Canada.

Mickelwait’s case against Pornhub hinges on several actual incidents of exploitation – most importantly, a class action lawsuit against the amateur porn operation Girls Do Porn, which The Daily Beast covered extensively last year and which resulted in 12 , $ 8 million in damages awarded to victims. . But the campaign’s claims about it are less specific. While Traffickinghub bills itself as “a non-religious, non-partisan effort”, the organizing force behind it is neither. Mickelwait’s employer – and the organization that runs the Traffickinghub campaign – is Exodus Cry, a fringe evangelical group with far-right ties “prayed” to exist in a church in Missouri, in a bid to completely abolish the commercial sex industry.

When Exodus Cry first appeared in 2007, it was little more than a weekly prayer group organized by a man named Benjamin Nolot in the charismatic Christian enclave known, amazingly, as the International House of prayer, or IHOP. At the time, the group met on Monday night to, as Nolot put it in a 2012 speech, “pray for trafficking.” Five years later, they opened their first “catering” shelter for victims of human trafficking called LightHouse. “We say, give us these girls!” Nolot told the crowd in his dedication. “We want to put them in the right context.”

When Exodus Cry first appeared in 2007, it was little more than a weekly prayer group organized by a man named Benjamin Nolot in the charismatic Christian enclave known, amazingly, as the International House. of prayer, or IHOP.

What came from the shelter is unclear. Asked directly about it, Nolot replied, “Since our inception, Exodus Cry has raised awareness of the injustice of sex trafficking, advocates for effective legislation and helps victims and survivors, and we continue this vital work until today. .

But in 2016, Nolot announced in its annual report that it was “time to reconsider the role Exodus Cry will play in the restaurant business.” Some time after 2018, when the LightHouse was included on a Missouri shelter list, the website ceased to function.

In recent years, the group has invested in a new form of advocacy: the making of documentaries. Their cinematographic work produced Freed: the new sexual revolution, a Netflix documentary on the dangers of hip youth culture; Seattle Bikini Baristas, on how “behind the intrigue of lingerie and java hides a darker side”; and Existence, a six-minute “visual poem” featuring Nolot’s family on a trip to the Virgin Islands.

Like Traffickinghub, Exodus Cry has gone to great lengths to distance itself from religion. Motherboard ‘s Samantha Cole reported that in 2017, the organization changed its mission statement to remove all references to Jesus Christ and prayer. But the exorcism wasn’t particularly in-depth – their website still has a page titled, “Learn to Pray.” Their mission can be understood in part through the work of IHOP, the church where it was born.

You may recognize IHOP (which was actually sued by the pancake chain in 2010 for trademark infringement; the case was later dropped), from movies such as the 2013 documentary God loves Uganda, who accused the church of fueling homophobia that led to Uganda’s famous anti-homosexuality law. IHOP later rejected the association, but church founder Mike Bickle shared similar sentiments. Bickle asserted that homosexuals would face “fiery missiles from the Evil One”, that “the gay marriage agenda” is “rooted in the depths of hell”, that Adolf Hitler was a “hunter” sent by God to punish the Jews, and that Oprah Winfrey is a servant of the Antichrist.

When Trump was elected in 2016, Bickle was one of the leaders of the “POTUS Shield,” the Pentecostal coalition that, according to Right Wing Watch, believed that “Trump’s election gave the church in America the opportunity to trigger a great spiritual awakening that engulfs the nation and the world. “

In a statement to the Daily Beast, Exodus Cry CEO Benjamin Nolot denied any association with IHOP. “Since our inception, Exodus Cry has been an independent 501c3 nonprofit,” he wrote, “and is not in formal partnership with any other organization.”

But in 2018, Open Democracy reported that Exodus Cry had been listed as a “related tax exempt organization” in IHOP’s tax returns in their most recent returns, that the two groups shared a director, and that Nolot was listed as a “prayer leader”. until 2017.

Bickle was one of the leaders of the “POTUS Shield,” the Pentecostal coalition that believed … that “Trump’s election has given the American Church an opportunity to trigger a great spiritual awakening that will engulf the nation and the world.”

When Exodus Cry moved from Kansas City to Sacramento last July, IHOP held a farewell prayer in their honor, according to church announcements dated June 9 and 21, 2019. “Part of the office and the EC team will remain in [sic] KC and Continue report to IHOPKC, ”the ad read (emphasis added). The two groups have teamed up as recently as this year, as church announcements show, when they teamed up for a “Hope Bag” fundraiser in March.

Exodus Cry also claims that the campaign against Pornhub is not “anti-sex worker” and that it does not believe in the criminalization of sex work. But tax returns show that in 2018 the group changed its mission statement to include “the abolition of sex trafficking and the commercial sex industry.”

“Pornography laws must be cleaned up to help prevent sex trafficking under the guise of pornography,” said a business lawyer who has worked on regulatory reform for the adult industry, “but I don’t think doing a full blitzkrieg on the porn industry is going any further this cause. “

Perhaps more revealing: the campaign was co-sponsored by the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE), a nonprofit formerly known as Morality in Media, which has been “the country’s loudest voice against adult pornography ”in the early 2000s. NCOSE CEO Patrick Trueman, described by ABA Journal as a“ porn war veteran, ”led the George HW Bush administration’s crusade against Internet pornography as as head of the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section of the Ministry of Justice. From 1988 to 1993, Trueman worked closely with Robert Mueller and William Barr to “aggressively pursue[ue] case of obscenity ”and put“ seven of the country’s largest distributors of pornography out of business ”.

Trueman’s wife, former health insurance lobbyist Laura Clay Trueman, has passed through equally conservative circles – from a job at the Heritage Foundation to senior policy adviser to Representative Steve Scalise (R-LA), to a politician appointed in Donald Trump’s department. Health and social services.

In 2014, ThinkProgress published an article titled “This is how the war on pornography ends,” detailing the decrease in donations to Trueman’s group from $ 1.2 million in 2001 to less than $ 650,000. in 2011. Trueman’s support for #Traffickinghub suggests an attempt to revive it, with at least some of the same players. the Washington Examiner, who edited Mickelwait’s initial editorial, is owned by Philip Anschutz – billionaire oil heir, far-right Christian and one of Trueman’s biggest backers.

And taxpayers are even paying part of the bill – in April, NCOSE was approved for a PPP loan of between $ 150,000 and $ 300,000 as part of Trump’s coronavirus rescue program.

“The abolition of porn will never happen until we have a First Amendment,” said the aforementioned lawyer, before adding, “Well, I shouldn’t say that, because there are hearings to the Supreme Court for someone who wouldn’t hesitate to redefine obscenity. to include pornography. “

Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that the Traffickinghub petition was hosted on a private domain, not a third party platform like Change.org. In fact, there is a second petition on Change.org, which has almost half as many signatures.

This article has also been updated to clarify that Benjamin Nolot denies a formal partnership with IHOP and that Exodus Cry, although not a political organization, has ties to far-right groups.

#Exodus #Cry #crosseyed #evangelical #group #Trump #war #Pornhub

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