An interesting "virtual" child pornography case is developing in my own backyard: Michael L. Gulley, former youth pastor at Grace Baptist Church in St. Charles, Missouri, has confessed to creating "virtual" child pornography.
The former youth pastor of a Baptist church in St. Charles admitted Thursday in federal court that he pasted photos of the heads of teenagers from the congregation onto scenes of adult pornography. ...
They called St. Charles police, who later found images of the heads of minors from the church that had been electronically cut and pasted on pictures of naked adults engaged in sex, court documents show.
Gulley had taken digital pictures of the youths during church social activities, officials indicated. ...
Court documents show that the attorney, Daniel Juengel, had argued that the images could not be considered child pornography because the adults in the pictures were the ones engaged in sex, not the teens whose heads appeared.
But Assistant U.S. Attorney Carrie Costantin insisted that by modifying images of minors to make it appear they were engaged in sex, Gulleyâ€™s result qualified as child pornography.
I put quotes around "virtual" because the adjective is used to obscure the fact that "virtual child pornography" doesn't actually involve any naked children. Mr. Gulley should certainly have been fired from his pastoral job (and the bar for losing such a job is much lower than this) but it's wrong for him to be facing criminal charges. It isn't alleged that he ever molested or abused a child, nor did he photograph a child in a sexually explicit manner, nor did he possess sexually explicit pictures of children. I don't even think there's a libel case here, because the pictures weren't distributed. How can there be a crime when there's no victim?
As disturbing and disgusting as Mr. Gulley's actions were, no one was hurt by them in any way and he's basically being prosecuted for a thought crime. His thoughts were sick, but thoughts shouldn't be illegal. "Virtual" child pornography is a legal fiction that's used to to achieve ostensibly noble ends by dishonest means.