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April 27, 2010

Is Porn a Problem in Your Church Office?

The SEC's embarrassing news provides a sobering reminder.


An eye-opening national headline emerged last week, providing a timely sneak peek into our upcoming issue of Your Church magazine.

The inspector general for the Securities and Exchange Commission--the organization tasked with enforcing the laws and regulations that govern the country's stock and options exchanges--conducted 31 probes of employee internet use during the past 2 1/2 years. The overarching finding? Senior staff members of the SEC spent hours surfing pornographic websites on government-issued computers, according to a memo obtained first by ABC News.

Among the findings, according to an Associated Press story published Friday:

  • One senior attorney spent up to 8 hours a day looking at porn. Upon running out of hard drive space, he burned files to CDs or DVDs;
  • One accountant was blocked more than 16,000 times in a month by the SEC's internal filter, yet he still found ways around that filter using search engines;
  • In all, the SEC discovered 2 cases in 2007, and 16 in 2008 (as many will recall, the country's financial woes began to emerge midway through 2007).

Unfortunately, this isn't the first government agency to share disturbing news like this. Last fall, the National Science Foundation's agency inspector revealed he had to shift time scheduled to combat grant fraud to instead crack down on porn use by staffers.

So, what's the connection to church leaders and staff members?

The pervasive nature of pornography sadly has opened doors to temptation during business hours (or after hours with company-, government-, or church-owned equipment). And that's a sobering reminder: The church office isn't immune, especially as technology increasingly becomes mobile, offering opportunities to connect online via mobile phones and laptops. Leaders must be aware of how church-owned equipment is used, not only to help protect the moral and spiritual well-being of pastors and staff, but also to minimize the potential for an incidence of sexual misconduct.

In 2001, our sister publication Leadership journal surveyed pastors and found that 4 in 10 struggled with online pornography.

In our upcoming Summer 2010 issue (which you can sign up to receive for free electronically in your inbox), one Kansas pastor tells us that many of the people who come through his recovery program for porn addiction are pastors. Statistics from Covenant Eyes, a Christian internet filtering service, include mention of a 2005 Computerworld article in which half of Fortune 500 companies dealt with at least 1 computer porn incident in the prior 12 months.

What to do?

Our 7-page package provides an overview of the technological tools available, including filtering and accountability software. It also provides guidance on the policies and practices that church staffs should put into place. And, lest we forget that porn use is a sin that involves real people who are broken and in need of redemption and care, we also include an excerpt from William Struthers' new book, Wired for Intimacy, regarding the power of confession, transparency, and personal accountability.

The Summer 2010 issue of Your Church is free and mails in mid-May. In the meantime, these other resources may help:

From Church Law & Tax Report:

- Can Churches Inspect Employees' Computers?

From ChurchSafety.com:

- Your Guide to Employee Handbooks
- Sexual Harassment in Your Church

Matt Branaugh is director of editorial for Christianity Today International's church management publications and resources. His current duties include editing Your Church magazine and TheYourChurchBlog.com, as well as leading a fantastic editorial team.

Related Tags: cell phones, computers, desktops, laptops, liability, netbooks, office, risk, safety, sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, social media, software, staff, technology, texting


Let's be honest, porn is a problem in every office.

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