Sunday, December 15, 2002

Burress' hatred of porn rooted in his former love for it

By Michael D. Clark
The Cincinnati Enquirer

SHARONVILLE - Phil Burress' command post for the war against pornography is a small conference room dominated by a large Tristate map dotted with colored pushpins.

Here in the "War Room" of Citizens for Community Values, strategy is formulated and events are examined. Each pin on the map represents a foe to be defeated.

But don't get the wrong idea. The leader of the nation's most high-profile, anti-pornography group is anything but a grim field general.

Disarming in his candor about his own past, Mr. Burress, 60, comes across as a happy warrior who says pornography nearly ruined his life.

For 25 years, he says, his waking hours were dominated by the need to view pornography. It destroyed his ability to be a loving husband, cost him financially and kept him emotionally estranged from people who should have been close.

"It consumed my life. It was my hidden secret," he says.

The twice-divorced Cincinnati native sees himself as a blessed survivor, whose acceptance of God and admission of his "addiction" to pornography allowed him to reverse a life he is convinced was spiraling into a personal abyss.

Today, the energetic CCV leader knows how to work a room. His skills as an ex-labor mediator mesh well with the evangelical-tinged delivery of his message that a Christian-based nation must be vigilant against enemies from within. Enemies, he preaches, that threaten the hearts and minds of Americans - most importantly, our families and children.

At a recent public forum at Lakeside Christian Church in Northern Kentucky, Mr. Burress repeated his message to 30 citizens, including half a dozen Northern Kentucky elected officials, about the importance of using zoning laws to control sexually oriented businesses.

"Just because it is legal to operate a sex business doesn't mean we have to accept it. You have to be proactive. If not, then sexually dysfunctional males and the sexually addicted will frequent these places," he said, standing in the church's pulpit. "Prayer without work is not worth much."

Nearby, in a front pew, sat his wife, Vickie.

They met at an anti-pornography conference and married four years ago. Mrs. Burress works with her husband as the coordinator of CCV's victims assistance programs while also holding supervisory positions in various associated pro-family groups.

Mrs. Burress says she understands pornography's destructive power and why her husband must abstain from any exposure to such materials. For that reason, she will watch the adult videos and read the adult magazines, then write summaries for her husband so he can speak to groups, lobby legislators or persuade prosecutors.

"I don't even look at it," Mr. Burress says.

"We understand each other," she says. "We both have a passion for this."


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