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Attacks on the Nude, the Naked, the Naturist
by Fred E. Foldvary, Senior Editor
Civil rights now protect minorities of race, religion, and sex, but there is one minority that government is attacking without regard to civil liberties and Constitutional rights: naturists.
Naturism is the philosophy of living in harmony with nature. This includes an affinity and respect for wildlife and the natural environment, an attempt to live a healthy lifestyle with natural foods, and the acceptance of the human body as naturally good and wholesome, hence a rejection of the culture of lust and shame regarding the nude human body. The latter belief by itself is, of course, nudism, the belief that there is nothing wrong with not wearing clothing, and a lifestyle that includes nudity.
The nudist movement has centered on private nudist clubs and resorts, while the naturist movement has focused on nude beaches, springs, and back yards. Both nudism and naturism have been under increasing attack by the so-called "religious right," and laws are being passed nationwide prohibiting nonsexual nudity even inside one's home.
Civil asset forfeiture, the confiscation of property without trial or conviction, is even being proposed as a weapon against the practice of nudity even in enclosed private property. In Arkansas, it is illegal even to advocate in favor of nudism.
Nudity is a prime example of a possibly offensive but victimless state of being. It is not even an activity or act, since it is not behavior, but simply the absence of clothing. The nude and the naked should therefore be protected by civil rights and liberties, including natural rights, freedom of expression, freedom of religion, freedom of association, and private property rights.
Of course, most folks don't want naked people to walk down the street. But anti-nudity laws extend way beyond this to prohibit nudity in one's property and even inside one's own house, and some places make it illegal to be nude in the company of a child even at home. In some place, breast feeding is treated as a crime. Art depicting nonsexual nudity is banned in some places, and many shops that develop film routinely destroy any film that depicts nudity, and if a child is shown nude, no matter how innocent the context, the shop reports it to the authorities.
Even in a liberal city such as Berkeley, California, the law extends to any nudity in "public view," which includes not only nude use of back-yard hot tubs, but even inside one's house if there is a window through which someone could possibly look. One man in Ohio was arrested because someone across the street using binoculars could see him nude inside his house, and in Florida, a child was taken from a woman who was dancing nude in the presence of her child because one could see her by looking up the closed Venetian blinds.
In Berkeley, a recent trial for public nudity ended in a hung jury. The Berkeley police have since then enforced the anti-nudity law as an infraction, like a traffic ticket. Unlike felony and misdemeanor cases, infractions are fines that cannot be tried by a jury. A court case on April 13 resulted in a dismissal of the charges, because the Berkeley law was enacted as a misdemeanor. The Berkeley City council is now considering whether to change the law to make it an infraction. This would be a bad precedent, since the policy of infractions could be used to stifle any protests and free speech and the freedom of movement and association by fining it without any jury trials.
Nudity has already been used as an excuse for governments and private parties to shut down nudist camps and resorts as a real- estate grab. A private nudist resort in Los Angeles fought the government for years against those trying to grab the property, and in Virginia, a nudist camp was opposed by Madison County and finally shut down. Madison has a totalitarian law making it illegal to do anything the government has not declared legal!
In Tennessee, a law has been proposed allowing a group of ten people to declare skinny dipping a nuisance and have it halted. In Kentucky, nudist clubs and resorts must register with the government, and the government refuses to register them, thus effectively banning nudism. In many states, anti-nudity laws have been passed on the basis of outlawing pornography and commercial nude dancing and performances, but the language of the law has also banned the practice of nudism by families at home or in social naturist clubs.
In Alabama and Florida, bills to apply RICO - Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization - laws have been introduced to eliminate naturism. RICO allows the government to confiscate property that is only indirectly used in an offense. Hence, if you drive a nudist to a nude beach, your car can then be confiscated. Not only that, but people who file complaints against nudists are allowed to win penalties of up to $40,000 upon conviction. With this bounty, zealous anti-nudists and those who are just greedy can get rich seeking out skinny-dippers.
In California, another weapon in the war against nudity is being considered. The California Senate is considering SB 1859, a "local option" law that would let local governments determine their own "community standards," replacing the current state-wide standard. Naturist and nudist publications depicting nudity in a non-sexual context, or even a photo of one's naked baby in a bathtub, could be classified as obscene by the local standard. Electronic communications and web sites showing non-sexual nudity, such as people at a nude beach, would become criminal in that locality.
Such laws are being pushed and passed throughout the United States because most folks are not nudists or naturists, and think it does not affect them. But these laws are not only unjust to nudists and naturists, but set terrible precedents against free expression and private property rights. Anti-nudity legislation is a foot in the door to the suppression of all our rights and liberties.