Brattleboro Drafts Anti-Nudity Ordinance

FOR DOWNLOAD MORE GALLERY On Tuesday, The Brattleboro Selectboard will decide whether or not to enact a 30 day emergency nudity ban, followed immediately by a public hearing on the issue. Another hearing will take place August 7 before the board decides upon final approval of the ordinance.
(Acting Town Manager Brabara) Sondag said Friday she has received an overwhelming number of phone calls complaining about nudity in Brattleboro since a 68-year-old Arizona man wearing only a fanny pack and sandals took a stroll around town during the monthly Gallery Walk July 6.

Most of those who have contacted her office, she said, have indicated they would like to see the Selectboard pass a local ordinance banning nudity in town.
I don't know who is making all these phone calls, and neither does Ms. Sondag, apparently. They could be from the Christianist activist group Vermont Renewal who has lobbied against the Brattleboro nudity in the past. Last year the Selectboard decided that there was no nudist movement in Brattleboro and that passing any ordinance would be short-sighted, but something has changed since last September and the board has now decided to take action.

The town is now seeking to define nudity as the baring of genitalia, buttocks, or the female breast, and will be prohibited in "any location likely to be observed by members of the public and where the public is present or likely to be present, including streets, sidewalks, parks, parking lots and business and commercial establishments.". A mother breastfeeding a child would be an exception.

The proposed ordinance is also convoluted, banning nudity in specific areas, and within 250 feet of any school or church. An allowance has been made for people who want to get naked in the "privacy" of their own yards. This is all such a slippery slope. For example, what is "privacy"? If you are naked in your own yard but someone can see you from the street, are you legally private?
"Out of the sight of the public, you are free to do that," he (Selectboard Vice Chairman Dick DeGray) said. "This is being driven by a minority of people," added DeGray, who said even though the Selectboard has more important things to take care of, the public nudity issue was interfering with downtown business and bringing unwanted attention to Brattleboro.
"Out of the sight of the public". That says it all, apparently. So, in spite of the fact that the issue has been driven by a minority, and the board has more important business, they have decided to go forward with the ordinance anyway. As I've said many times before, politicians tend to always err on the side of the moralists, who argue not from a position of reason and facts, but from one of emotion and religion. No politician wants to be labeled as anti-church, anti-family, or anti-children.

An article by the Associated Press has more on the issue.
“Just because you can doesn’t mean you should,” said select board member Dick DeGray. “You can’t go into a store and buy an adult magazine until you’re 18, and yet you can walk down the street in Vermont and see naked people. There’s something wrong with that picture.”
This is what is known as a non-argument argument and it makes no sense. "Just because you can doesn't mean you should" sounds like something Mike Brady said to his kids in "The Brady Bunch" - it sounds profound but it's just gibberish. And equating simple nudity with pornography magazines is downright ignorant.
Public nudity is far from an everyday occurrence, but many here want it regulated.

“It’s time they did something about it,” said Sherwood Smith, manager of Baskets Bookstore, which is in the Harmony parking lot, where naked teens gathered last summer. “I don’t care how they robe or disrobe at swimming holes, but in a downtown area like this, it’s wrong.”“It hurts a store like this.

People who are likely to buy used books are often conservative middle-aged people or older. I couldn’t be happier to see them putting in an ordinance,” Smith said.
With so many problems needing solutions, it is disturbing to see our elected officials spending so much time on issues that are inflated by a few vocal people in the minority. It doesn't help that the national press tends to pick up stories like this because anything with the mention of naked people tends to be somewhat of a sensation. Whether it's nudist bowlers in Maine or aging naturists in Connecticut looking for younger members, the titillation factor is too great to pass up.

On Tuesday night I hope that cooler heads prevail and the Selectboard decides to pass on the ordinance once again, but something tells me that the die is already cast and the hearings are only formalities before nudity becomes a crime in Brattleboro.

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