Faith in the rule of law

“Outrage over a 20-foot, anatomically correct stallion outside a strip club in rural northern Mississippi could lead to a new law allowing counties to regulate such establishments,” begins this article by Shelia Byrd in BusinessWeek. According to the article, the bill would give Mississippi’s 82 counties the option to draft regulations for strip clubs that try to open in rural, unincorporated areas. I’m assuming the State’s counties do not otherwise possess a ‘home rule’ power to regulate adult businesses, which seems odd if true. From the article …

“Since I’ve filed the bill, I’ve gotten a lot of telephone calls and encouragement from pastors and others. But really what started it all was that bikini on that stallion,” Chism said….

Lowndes County Supervisor Leroy Brooks said most counties don’t have zoning ordinances.

“Certainly, we need something on the books in case somebody gets too outlandish,” Brooks said.

But Brooks said he’s told residents that The Pony is a legal establishment and has the right to operate whether or not there’s an issue of morality.

“I don’t drink, but I’m not trying to close down bars,” said Brooks, who inspected the club after receiving calls from residents. “The place was clean. They had security guards. I wasn’t really interested in looking at the women, but they looked OK.”

Not too far away, in the City of Destin, Florida, citizens are debating a similar concern. In this article by Tosha Sketo for The Destin Log, we learn that “Pastor James Calderazzo of Safe Harbor Presbyterian Church said he and his congregation do not want a strip club to move into Destin. But since Atlanta strip club owner Terry Stephenson settled [a federal lawsuit] with the city last month, it’s likely that topless dancers will be featured in the city by the end of the summer.” From the article …

Calderazzo said he asked his congregation to pray about the recent development. He urged his congregation to fight against wrong-doers but also “love those that are doing wrong.”

“We really need to seek the Lord in this,” he said.

The Destin Fire Control District is another potential neighbor of the strip club, but Fire Chief Kevin Sasser said he isn’t too concerned about a topless bar moving in near the station. He said he has consulted the Okaloosa Island Fire Chief about what effect strip clubs have had on the area and found out that it really didn’t have any impact.

He said call volumes hadn’t gone up, and were similar to call volumes from any establishment that sells alcohol.

“If any incidents do occur, then our response time would be shorter,” Sasser said. “That’s really the only difference.”

A hearty salute to Lowndes County Supervisor Leroy Brooks and Destin Fire Chief Kevin Sasser. If the First Amendment is a flame atop a hill on a moonless night, folks like Messrs Brooks and Sasser are shielding it from hurricane-like winds rolling up from the pews. Please forgive my mixed metaphors.

*Full disclosure: I was counsel on the Destin lawsuit along with my esteemed colleague, Gary Edinger.

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