Ashland Council Backs Cover-Up

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If you like to walk around naked, don’t try it in Ashland anymore: The city council there has enacted a ban on public nudity.

The council adopted the citywide ban Tuesday night by a 4-2 vote despite a warning from the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union that it violates the Oregon Constitution’s protection of free speech.

According to council members, the new ordinance prohibits nude political demonstrations like a “Buns Not Bombs” event held to protest the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and a naked bike ride that protested global warming and the use of fossil fuels. Violators will face a $180 fine.

Oregon ACLU Executive Director David Fidanque sent a letter to the city stating that the “ACLU believes the proposed ordinance is unconstitutional and would be overturned by the courts. We urge you to reject it.”

In 1985 the Oregon Court of Appeals upheld a Portland ban on public nudity but said that nudity as a political statement could be protected under the state constitution and each case should be considered individually.

Five years ago Ashland enacted a ban on the public display of genitalia downtown and in parks, but “[p]ublic nudity became a major issue again in 2009 after two men, one from California and one from Minnesota, walked naked near Ashland schools,” according to the Ashland Daily Tidings.

“With its previous ban on nudity … Ashland attracted out-of-state nudists and was ridiculed by Fox News for allowing public nudity,” the Tidings wrote.

We’ll have to wait and see how this thing plays out in the courts, but my sense is that the ban is too broadly written to survive a constitutional challenge.

Meanwhile, I’m wondering why Bend has never had to deal with a public nudity problem. Probably it’s because, except for about two weeks in July and August, it’s just too frickin’ cold here to parade around in the buff.


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