This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2001, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Whatever you call her -- "porn czarina" or the official "obscenity and pornography complaints ombudsman" -- Paula Houston is about to enter an uncharted legal landscape. Houston, a Brigham Young University graduate and former West Valley City prosecutor, is Utah's (some say the world's) first full-time porn stopper.
"This is an historic day," Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff said Friday before introducing Houston to reporters. "There's absolutely no redeeming value to pornography . . . and I, for one, will not allow pornographers to hide behind the First Amendment."
Houston, whose job was created by the 2000 Legislature, will investigate and prosecute those who violate the state's obscenity laws.
It is, perhaps, an unenviable task, and no laughing matter, Shurtleff said.
Utah's new chief lawyer used the occasion to fire the first salvos in what could become a moral war against the Internet, television, books, movies, drawings and whatever else Houston, or any Utah community that asks for her help, deems obscene.
"I'm coming after you, Paula's coming after you," Shurtleff said. "Pedophiles are using our kids' innocent curiosity."
Added Houston: "Everyone has a right to live in a community without being harmed by others. People have to live side by side. If something is hurting people, we can regulate it. Every community does that."
The 2000 statute funded the porn ombudsman's office at $75,000 annually, and Shurtleff has asked lawmakers for another $50,000 to supplement its work.
"I'm just excited Utah is No. 1 on this," said retired Republican Rep. Evan Olsen, a Young Ward dairy farmer, who sponsored the bill that created the office.
While Houston will be expected to field complaints from around the state, her first duty will be to draft a comprehensive state "moral nuisance law" and a model ordinance for cities and counties "to abate and discourage obscenity and pornography."
She must present drafts of the law and ordinance to lawmakers by Oct. 25.
Shurtleff also expects Houston to help curb Internet porn, create a database to track pornographers and come to the aide of victims of pornography.
"Nudity is not pornography," Houston said. What is obscene, she added, depends on where you live and whose moral compass is being used.
"Pornography is defined as something that has no scientific or artistic value . . . and appeals to prurient interests," Houston explained. "We don't want to trample on the First Amendment, but we also have to balance that with protecting our community standards."
What qualifies as obscene in Payson isn't necessarily offensive in Park City, Shurtleff said, so Houston will help individual communities develop their own obscenity tests.
"She's there to help, not mandate," he said. "This is not a modern-day witch hunt. That's not what this is about."
Houston was born in Texas and lived in Montana, and served a Mormon mission to New Zealand before moving to Utah to attend BYU; she graduated from the J. Reuben Clark Law School in 1987. She was hired as a law clerk in West Valley City in 1986 and left as a senior attorney.
Houston also serves on the board of trustees of the South Valley Sanctuary, a domestic-violence shelter in West Jordan.
Houston was a law clerk when she worked on her first pornography case against a video store that sold movies depicting sexual penetration. The case, she said, motivated her to devote her career to fighting obscenity.
"There's a fight," she said, "and it's worth fighting."