Pastor William Dunfee of New Beginnings Ministries in Warsaw, Ohio, is suing a local strip club whose owner and employees have been protesting—some of them topless—outside his church on Sunday mornings for several years.
I say: Bravo, Pastor Dunfee!
According to the Coshocton Tribune:
“The battle began nine years ago when church members made it their mission to protest outside what they viewed as a sexually irresponsible business … . [Strip club owner Thomas] George attempted to sue New Beginnings in 2009, but after he lost in federal court, he and his employees took matters into their own hands.
“Strippers and others began protesting outside the church on Sundays, where upwards of 150 would come to worship. What began in 2010 became more aggressive in August 2014 and continued to escalate this year, according to the recent lawsuit against George and his employees … .
“The suit outlines multiple instances over the course of years during which George and strippers followed families to and from their cars and ‘hurled vile insults.’ In many cases, the protesters intentionally obstructed churchgoers from entering or leaving the building, according to the lawsuit.”
I’m not opposed to peaceful protest, even if it’s a cause with which I disagree (and, yes, I don’t agree with the strip club), but when people start engaging in lewd and even threatening behavior, no way.
These strip club employees are obnoxious exhibitionists who deserve to be sued, if not jailed.
I contacted New Beginnings Ministries to give them my support and asked why the local police don’t arrest the topless troublemakers for indecent exposure.
Carla Cullison, a representative of the church, responded:
“With regard to the topless protesters, we have tried numerous times to get help from our local authorities, from the sheriff to the county law director and prosecutor. It seems they all fear retaliatory lawsuits from the topless offenders due to other instances where it's legal to be topless in Ohio, i.e., the annual Gay Pride Parade in Columbus.
“It appears that the Ohio law protecting breast-feeding mothers, plus the protester's ‘freedom of expression,’ has been abused to the point that law enforcement is allowing this lewd behavior to take place outside our church doors.
“The Village of Warsaw does have an ordinance in place, but it focuses solely on the establishment of a sexually-oriented business and the restrictions placed on them. There are some who are working with our state representatives in hopes of revamping the law to protect us and others from this sort of activity, but, as you know, that's a slow process.
“While we don't enjoy our topless guests' actions, it has given some of us an opportunity to witness to them. So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11 KJV)
In a somewhat-related case in Illinois, in June of this year, “Thomas More Society filed a lawsuit in Cook County Circuit Court on behalf of the Missionary Sisters of St. Charles Borromeo, the Village of Melrose Park, and Melrose Park residents against Club Allure strip club and the Village of Stone Park for violating Illinois zoning law and thus causing harm and disruption to the sisters and nearby residents.”
Matt C. Abbott is a Catholic commentator with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication, Media and Theatre from Northeastern Illinois University. He's been interviewed on MSNBC, NPR, WLS-TV (ABC) in Chicago, WMTV (NBC) in Madison, Wis., and has been quoted in The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.