SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah's declaration of pornography as a public health crisis has created a backlash from sexually explicit publications, earning Republican Gov. Gary Herbert a mention on the latest cover of Penthouse magazine, which also sent copies of the issue to him and leaders in the Utah-based Mormon church.
The cover of the magazine's issue for July and August features an image of a model against an American flag along with a sardonic headline teasing the cover story about Utah's pornography resolution, passed earlier this year.
The magazine's editor, Raphie Aronowitz, admits the move was aimed to agitate.
"We wanted to show these guys that them imposing their views on us and bringing their values to our doorstep is just as irritating as us doing the same do them," Aronowitz said.
Jon Cox, a spokesman for Herbert, said the fact that the industry feels threatened by a resolution "meant to raise awareness of this problem shows you just how desperate they must be."
"If a magazine like Penthouse is taking you to task, that's always a good sign that you're on the right side of history," Cox said in a statement.
The governor's office said the copy was thrown away and Herbert did not read the article.
Utah's symbolic resolution passed earlier this year doesn't ban or regulate anything, but it's stirred some national discussion about pornography. Utah's stance was even incorporated into the official platform of the Republican Party during the national GOP convention in Cleveland last month.
Defenders of pornography contend that critics are pushing hyperbole and that sexually-explicit materials can be a safe outlet for some.
Aronowitz and Kelly Holland, CEO of Penthouse Global Media Inc., said they disagree with the notion that pornography is a public health problem and felt that Utah's government is enshrining values from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, one of several religious groups that's highlighted what they consider harms of pornography.
"This idea that you could cast masturbation as abhorrent behavior, which is really a lot of what we're talking about in terms of the Mormon church and the LDS, is so unhealthy," Holland said.
The LDS Church, a faith to which a majority of Utah residents and lawmakers belong, launched a website in 2013 devoted to helping its members overcome pornography addiction. Last year, the religion made a video to give children tips to avoid pornography.
A message left with the public affairs office of the LDS Church was not returned.
Utah Republican Sen. Todd Weiler, a Mormon who sponsored Utah's resolution, said he did not consult with or coordinate with the church on the resolution, but he did work with the Washington-based National Center on Sexual Exploitation and members of other faith groups.
"It's obviously not just Mormons that find pornography to be a negative influence in our society," he said.
Weiler thinks it's offensive and crosses a line to send the magazine to the faith and said the sexually-explicit magazines appear to feel threatened by his resolution.
The move follows a similar one by Larry Flynt, who sent copies of his Hustler magazine to all members of Utah's Legislature in June.
"If you don't want to pursue pornography, you shouldn't have to," Flynt said. "But you shouldn't be able to dictate adult reading habits are for other people."
Flynt said he felt the statement made in Utah's resolution was so far-fetched that he wanted to respond by "enlightening" legislators in Utah.
"They're so sexually repressed out there," Flynt said. "They need to get a life."