DALTON, Ga.—When Brian Rudnicki stopped into his local Favorite Markets' convenience store last March to fill up with gasoline and pick up some odds and ends, he was shocked to discover the convenience store's latest addition—a magazine rack filled with pornography.

Not content to sit back, Rudnicki took matters into his own hands, resulting in the recent removal of pornography from the 150-store chain, demonstrating that concerned citizens can make a difference in the way that businesses operate.

“I have a 13-year-old son and a 15-year-old daughter and I do not want either of them to think that pornography is acceptable,” Rudnicki told the Register.

At first, Rudnicki expressed his concern to the store manager. When he was told that it was a corporate decision, he tried reaching Favorite Markets' president, Samuel Turner, by telephone. When Turner would not return his phone calls Rudnicki enlisted help from the Tupelo, Miss.-based American Family Association, of which he had been a member for about 10 years.

With the assistance of Randy Sharp, director of special projects, a registered letter was mailed to Turner seeking to set up a meeting to discuss the issue. “We help citizens stop the proliferation of pornography and other immoral and anti-Christian activities in their communities,” said Sharp.

Turner responded saying that the introduction of pornography was a 90-day test and that a final decision would be made based upon sales. Further attempts to reach Turner, to set up a potential meeting, were met with silence.

“Every day those magazines are on the stand is another day that an adult or child can get their hands on them,” said Sharp.

Sharp encouraged Rudnicki to begin a petition drive in the community. Using names and addresses provided by the Chamber of Commerce, Rudnicki began soliciting signatures from area businesses and churches. Within a week he had gathered 500 signatures.

Rudnicki then brought the petitions to Favorite Markets' corporate office. When he was told that the president was not in, Rudnicki left the signatures at the office.

Rudnicki's next step was to begin a boycott and contact Texaco, the supplier of gasoline to the chain, but during the first week of June, Favorite Markets abruptly stopped selling the magazines and removed them from their stores. “I feel the campaign convinced the chain that it was not worth the trouble,” concluded Rudnicki.

Turner did not respond to Register phone calls.

“The very same week Friendly Express, a chain of 200 stores in southeast Georgia, also made the decision to stop selling pornography,” commented Sharp. “But there are many stores that still refuse to remove porn.”

Currently, the American Family Association is engaged in a similar campaign with Carl Jones, the president of the Waycross, Ga.-based Flash Foods convenience stores. Jones is the chairman of Prime South Bank, as well as the owner of an automotive dealership. The American Family Association is encouraging its supporters not to do business with any of Jones' entities.

Said Sharp, “We approach store owners one-on-one. If there is no response then we go back with a pastor. If they continue to not respond we go back with radio and newspaper advertisements in the community.”

“We find that citizens want to do something, but do not often know what to do. American families are tired of being inundated with immorality and are beginning to stand up and fight back,” said Sharp. “Either we do something or we run the risk of losing the family in America.”

Complaints Matter

Other stores in the Midwest also demonstrate the effect that a single person can have.

“I used to manage a convenience store in a small, rural Minnesota town. After introducing pornography we had a complaint, so I pulled the magazines,” said Richard Powell. Powell currently manages Bonkers, a convenience store that does carry pornography.

The store is owned by Tom Thumb, a 99-store chain based in Hastings, Minn. Tom Thumb operates six Bonkers' convenience/discount cigarette stores in Wisconsin and Minnesota.

“Tom Thumb's corporate policy leaves it up to the individual store or manager whether or not they sell pornography,” said Powell.

Doug Ollom, Tom Thumb's corporate buyer, told the Register that he had no comment on Tom Thumb's corporate policies.

“The magazines,” explained Powell, “come through Gopher State News, which delivers all of our magazines. They come along with everything else. It is up to us whether we choose to carry them or not. We receive many copies of each issue and send about half back.”

Powell estimated that magazines, as a whole, make up approximately $500-600 per month of the store's sales. “I'm not concerned about the sale of pornography,” Powell said. “The magazines are kept in the adult section with the cigarettes. You need to be 18 years old to go into that section.”

One interesting development that has given pro-family groups and individuals some leverage in the fight against convenience store pornography is the acceptance of no-pornography policies by several of the major oil distributors.

“Distributors such as Chevron, Texaco, Philips and BP/Amoco have instituted policies that state that any convenience stores that sell their brand of gasoline must agree in contract not to sell pornography. If stores are unwilling to stop selling pornography, we will approach the oil companies that supply them,” said Sharp.

In addition, Exxon/Mobil is set to institute no-pornography terms in March 2002.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that pornography “does grave injury to the dignity of its participants (actors, vendors, the public), since each one becomes an object of base pleasure and illicit profit for others. It is a grave offense. Civil authorities should prevent the production and distribution of pornographic materials” (No. 2354).

Tim Drake is managing editor of Catholic.net