Thursday, October 15, 2009

All It Takes is One Nut Job

Mayor John Stromberg of Ashland, Oregon, has changed his mind about officially banning nudity around schools, even though he recently was opposed to such an ordinance.
When he cast the tie-breaking vote in September, Stromberg said he thought the issue would be better handled through a citizens' initiative process, in which residents get the issue on the ballot themselves if they can gather enough signatures.

He said the city had only had one case of a man being nude near a school, and that man had agreed to stay away from schools.

Earlier this summer, Tony Cooper, who was from California, upset some residents for his nude strolls through Ashland, especially when he appeared naked near Walker Elementary School as children were walking home.

"I'm changing my position because this latest case involves someone who says he came to Ashland from Minnesota in order to be naked near our schools," Stromberg stated in his Wednesday e-mail to city and school staff and the Daily Tidings. "I think we want to avoid becoming an attraction for exhibitionists using our school children."
Although the man from Minnesota is causing alarm, there is no evidence that he is a sex offender, or that there's any legal reason that he cannot be around children. But that hasn't stopped people from getting very angry, including one man who threatened to "kick his ass", even though the man is legally within his rights. Oregon has no law banning nudity, only public indecency, which would involve sexual arousal.

I want to be clear that I personally don't support this nude man, would never suggest that anyone confront the public with nudity to cause alarm, and that nudists and naturists should condemn his disturbing behavior in no uncertain terms.

But the issue here is not really nudity, yet the mayor and city councilors are now set to ban nudity. The real issue is this lone nut job, who is hanging around schools scaring children, and is behaving contrary to what is acceptable in public. Does anyone really think this man would be any less creepy with pants on? Is anyone really going to feel safer around this man simply because he's being forced to wear clothes? In days gone by, the citizens would simply "run him out of town on a rail", which actually seems like a pretty good idea in this case.

Oregon has gotten along just fine all these years without banning nudity. There is no reason to write laws which restrict all citizens simply because of the behavior or a loner. If this man is upsetting children and parents with his behavior, he should be able to be controlled with current laws which prohibit creating a disturbance.

Even though an anti-nudity ordinance will not solve the problem, it will make many people "feel" better, and politicians will have the opportunity to put on a show for the voters.

Ashland Police Chief Terry Holderness weighed in:
"If someone is not violating the law, we are very limited in what we can do, even if the community is concerned about the activity in question. In situations like this, the most we can legally and ethically do is determine whether or not a law is being broken and attempt to keep the peace."
That sounds like a pretty good policy. Ashland should stick with it.


Steven said...

There are several things about this situation that are not clear to me. I have not read if the naked man was actually causing any "alarm", especially in the case of children. I wonder what a person from Minnesota is doing coming here to walk around naked, and am a bit suspicious of that. On the other hand, people go to other states all the time to enjoy beaches that are known to be naturist friendly, especially when their own state is not, and Oregon has a bit of a reputation for being naturist-friendly in its laws.

You say you would "never suggest that anyone confront the public with nudity to cause alarm", but I wonder if "alarm" is really ever the issue. Alarm seems to have a component of potential harm or threat to personal security to it. I think offense or annoyance are usually the issue, so I wonder to what you refer when you say "cause alarm". In the case at hand, I do not know if there was any actual alarm. I don't think it is a good idea at all to be naked in our society around schools, but I have no information that this man knew he was near a school. I am coming to the opinion that people are using the term "alarm" loosely in our society, because it seems to carry more political and legal weight, and not being questioned critically about whether or not they were merely annoyed. Our legal system operates more on the basis of whether *Harm* has been caused or inflicted, and I hate to see us sink to the level of preferences.

Nudiarist said...

The man knew he was near a school. Read the article, which states, "The man appeared to be intentionally walking around the perimeter of Ashland High School last week while students were present, and later the man put his clothes on and was seen in the school's parking lot, Holderness said." Parents were alarmed, upset and concerned to the point where at least one person threatened the man with physical violence.

What you say is true, that "alarm" is not necessarily a reason for arresting someone, and that is currently the position of the Ashland police department. I can tell you, though, if this naked man was aiming a rifle at the school at the same time, he would have been hauled in.

The problem is that this sort of behavior mobilizes citizens and politicians to demand new laws and ordinances banning nudity. Like I said, making nudity illegal doesn't solve the problem, it only forces the creeps to wear clothes.

Steven said...

OK, I have done that - read the article itself a number of times. Again, the specifics of this most recent incident are not really the point for me. The person may or may not have known of his proximity to schools ("...he *appeared* to *intentionally*..."), he probably did know he was in a school parking lot (but he had dressed), and related video shows him walking around other areas as well. Perhaps he needed better discernment, thinking that there would not be greater sensitivity about schools. But, what's next? After the issue of schools comes school bus routes, and wanting to ban nudity within 200-feet of any school bus route, or any route where children might walk to or from school. All of which seems to be based on a faulty idea that children are somehow harmed by the sight of simple nakedness (of humans, that is).

I do not read in the article about the "alarm" that you mention. Concern, yes. Anger and annoyance, yes. The mayor is concerned that "...we appear to have drawn national attention on this particular issue of nudity near schools...". I do not know if that fear is reality based. I live in Oregon, and keep my ear to the ground about all things concerning naturism in the state, and know of no basis for that fear.

In your reply to me you refer to "this sort of behavior", and I wonder specifically what you are talking about. What assumptions are being made about "this sort"? Any public nakedness that is offensive to someone, or cause for concern? I know a new neighbor lady on my street has had concerns about my public nakedness, because she "has 2 young daughters" that live with her. Of course, she has testified in our municipal court that she does not allow her husband to go around the house in his underwear for the same reason. Not all concern or annoyance is reasonable, and the basis of law should be *harm*.

What freedom do you actually have if you do not avail yourself of it? What good is it to have no laws that prohibit simple nudity if you never go naked for fear that would lead to a law prohibiting that nakedness? And how will the views and attitudes of the public ever be changed toward seeing simple nudity as more normalized if it is not more normally seen?

Nudiarist said...

Sorry, I cannot condone anyone walking around naked near a school in this society, and political climate. You might claim it was not "alarm", but something prompted people to call the police about this man. If you want to change the public's opinion about nudity, this is not the way to do it.

We have many freedoms that are not absolute. Shouting "fire" in a crowded theatre is the most often used example of a limit on free speech.

I think it's great that folks in Oregon have the right to be nude. Using that right responsibly is what most people do, but this lone wolf is about to spoil it for everybody.

Now the plan is to restrict nudity only near schools. Be thankful that's all they are proposing at this time.