Ohio’s Theocrats Continue Their Dishonest Anti-Sex Crusade

Introduction

Citizens for Community Values (CCV), a Cincinnati-based group officially associated with James Dobson’s Focus on the Family, pressured the Ohio General Assembly in May 2007 to pass Senate Bill 16. This bill places severe restrictions on adult businesses.

The same group led the crusade in 2004 to have Ohio’s voters amend the state constitution to prohibit gay marriages and all civil unions. The restrictions on those subjects are more severe than in any other state.

SB 16’s restrictions on adult businesses would likely close many of them. Some of their workers would become unemployed, homeless, unable to feed their families, or incapable of paying tuition for college. Many would move to other states to work, raise families, or attend college.

For many Ohioans who don’t move, the bill would cause their money to flow out of state. Demand for adult entertainment would increase at sources such as the Internet, neighboring states, and the underground economy. Ohio’s tax revenues and public services would decline.

Moreover, law enforcement resources would be wasted by investigating adult businesses instead of real crime. And the workers and customers would be subject to arrests for completely harmless acts such as handshakes, hugs, or pats on the back. The arrests would give them criminal records and impair their future ability to obtain jobs, pursue careers, and otherwise function in society.

Fortunately, opponents of the bill are collecting signatures to have its fate decided by the voters through a statewide referendum in November 2007. Many Ohioans have expressed strong concerns about a small group of religious extremists being able to dictate how everyone in the state should act and think.

CCV dishonest about other states’ laws

CCV threatened to collect signatures to place SB 16’s provisions on the November 2007 statewide ballot as an citizens’ initiative. The group also said it would work against the reelection of legislators who opposed the bill.

In response, numerous Ohio newspapers editorialized against the bill and urged the legislature to reject it.

Nevertheless, a majority of legislators caved to CCV’s pressure and voted for it. Some of them had previously criticized the bill as being unnecessary and a waste of time. One alternative newspaper’s article about their flip-flop was titled “Bullied state lawmakers approve a bill they hate.” Not much backbone there.

In fact, most legislators went along with the bill even after The Columbus Dispatch revealed that CCV’s representatives had lied to them and the public by claiming that eight states had passed similar or more restrictive legislation. The newspaper’s research showed that no states had passed such legislation.

The leadership of Ohio’s legislature and a majority of its members apparently see nothing wrong with rewarding liars by passing ignorant and harmful legislation. That attitude exposes their own values as being quite deficient.

And disappointingly, Ohio’s new Democratic governor allowed the bill to become law (without his signature). He seemingly forgot that one of the reasons Ohioans voted for him over his Republican opponent was that they didn’t want theocrats running the state.

CCV dishonest about crime

CCV says the purpose of the restrictions is to reduce crime. A connection between crime and adult businesses, though, is another falsehood the group has spread.

The claim that adult businesses cause crime has been debunked by a number of studies, including those performed by Daniel Linz, a professor in the Law and Society Program at the University of California at Santa Barbara.

In published research, Linz and his colleagues examine the studies purporting to link negative secondary effects to adult businesses. They expose those studies as failing to adhere to professional standards of scientific inquiry and in other ways being seriously and often fatally flawed.

They also report that when research is conducted by real social scientists – instead of anti-sex zealots having an agenda of closing adult businesses – the results are entirely different. The authors point out that scientifically valid studies show no negative secondary effects of adult businesses and sometimes indicate positive effects on communities.

No wonder the bars are called “Gentlemen’s Clubs.” In contrast, the dishonesty, intolerance, and heartlessness of CCV’s representatives show that they are acting at a much lower level than gentlemen. It’s obvious who has the better values.

James Prescott, a former research scientist and administrator at the National Institutes of Health, used international comparisons in reaching conclusions consistent with Linz’s.

Prescott found high violence rates in countries that are sexually repressed or otherwise discourage physical affection. He found low violence rates in countries having high acceptance of sexual expression and physical affection.

Prescott explains: “The data clearly indicates that punitive-repressive attitudes toward extramarital sex are . . . linked with physical violence, personal crime, and the practice of slavery. . . .”

He further asserts: “[The] findings overwhelmingly support the thesis that deprivation of body pleasure throughout life – but particularly during the formative periods of infancy, childhood, and adolescence – are very closely related to the amount of warfare and interpersonal violence.”

Thus, CCV’s latest anti-sex, anti-pleasure, and anti-happiness crusade, if successful, will increase crime and violence rather than alleviate those problems.

CCV dishonest about its goal

If CCV were being honest about intending to decrease crime, the group would be working to reduce several differences between the U.S. and industrialized countries having much lower crime rates. The differences have been strongly correlated with crime.

For example, those countries have a smaller percentage of citizens living in poverty, provide greater support for the types of social programs that have proved successful in reducing crime, maintain a more generous social safety net, and do not have the extreme disparities in income and wealth between rich and poor as seen in the U.S. today.

But CCV is not threatening to have citizens’ initiatives placed on the ballot to address such matters. Instead, the group’s interest is in regulating the personal lives of adults.

In addition to ignoring real causes of crime, CCV shows little concern about numerous other serious social problems. Just one example is the 47 million Americans without health insurance.

CCV apparently thinks they will be fine as long as they don’t have any gay marriages, civil unions, or adult businesses in their states.

The American Institute of Medicine, though, says about 18,000 Americans die each year because they lack health insurance. That’s worse than criminal.

CCV dishonest about its future goals

When SB 16 was being considered in the legislature, rumors circulated at the Statehouse that the next items on CCV’s legislative agenda are to ban gays from adopting children and being foster parents in Ohio.

In response to a Columbus Dispatch columnist’s question about the rumor, CCV’s president – a self-professed recovering “porn addict” – denied that the group has those goals.

He said, “We have not talked about that. I’m not going to discount anything, but at this point in time that has not been a topic of discussion for any of our plans for the future.”

But the columnist later revealed that the previous month, CCV had announced “Ohio Family Lobby” day at the Statehouse by distributing fliers listing the group’s top priorities as including “banning homosexual adoption and foster parenting.”

It’s a mystery why the legislature and governor give such people any credibility and respect.

CCV dishonest about what the law says

CCV is also trying to mislead the public about what’s in SB 16. This was shown in an article about a lunchtime signature-gathering event that opponents of the new law held in downtown Columbus.

The Cincinnati Enquirer reported that members of the group Dancers for Democracy told prospective signers that the law is so extreme that “if you touch a stripper, even on the elbow, you and the stripper could go to jail for 30 days.”

The article went on to say that CCV’s president disputed their claim. He said, “What makes them think that they’re going to get arrested for touching somebody’s elbow?”

He surely knows that the answer is in the new law itself, at O.R.C. 2907.40. Division (C)(2) says no dancer at an adult business “while nude or seminude, shall knowingly touch a patron . . . or another employee . . .  or the clothing of a patron . . . or another employee. . . . ” The division also prohibits nude or seminude dancers from allowing customers to touch them or their clothing.

That language clearly prohibits any touching, including a touch on the elbow. And Division (E) provides that such contact is a fourth-degree misdemeanor, for which a person can be jailed 30 days.

As John Stewart of “The Daily Show” might say to CCV’s president: “It’s my duty to inform you that your pants are on fire.”

CCV dishonest about supporting community values

If CCV were really in favor of community values – as its name asserts –  it would want local communities to decide how to regulate adult businesses. But even the group’s name perpetrates a fraud on the public.

Local communities have legal authority to enact all the restrictions in SB 16 and more. Many communities balked, however, at adopting CCV’s agenda regarding adult businesses.

In fact, few if any communities adopted it. As a result, CCV is trying to impose the restrictions from the state level.

Undoubtedly, the real reason for the CCV’s latest crusade is to again force its values on all communities in the state, regardless of whether individual communities have rejected those values.

And the group’s values are sectarian. CCV’s website says the group’s mission is “to promote Judeo-Christian moral values, and to reduce destructive behaviors contrary to those values. . . .” Of course, its interpretation of “Judeo-Christian moral values” differs from the interpretations accepted by numerous Christian and Jewish sects.

Nevertheless, CCV’s actions reveal that it wants the law to impose its particular religious beliefs on everyone, everywhere. And community values be damned.

Conclusion

By trying to use the law to force everybody to live according to its religious doctrines – and doing so with a pack of lies – CCV is not only violating church-state separation but also other humanistic principles.

In regard to adult businesses, those principles include the right of individuals to autonomy over their own bodies and the right of consenting adults to make their own decisions regarding sexual expression.

As the American Humanist Association’s New Bill of Sexual Rights and Responsibilities states: “Laws can and do protect the young from exploitation and people of any age from abuse. Beyond that, forms of sexual expression should not be a matter of legal regulation. Mature individuals should be able choose their partners and the kinds of sexual expression suited to them.”

Humanists and others who value freedom, reason, honesty, and compassion should strongly oppose this latest disinformation campaign that CCV is waging to impose its harmful anti-sex doctrines on all of Ohio.

CCV’s actions show that its leaders have no business lecturing about good values to anyone, let alone dictating values for everyone.

[Update: Although opponents of the law turned in over 600,000 signatures, the Ohio Secretary of State ruled that the requirement of submitting 241,000 valid signatures was not met. Thus, the referendum did not occur. The constitutionality of the law is being challenged in federal court.]