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Wednesday, April 02, 2008
Constitutional Protection... For *WHO*?
...I read something interesting the other day in my town's weekly newspaper. I think some of you might laugh at this, and others... won't.

So there's this discussion going on in my city over the laws surrounding smoking/hookah clubs and strip clu- er, as they called them "adult oriented establishments". Apparently the city has decided that they can say no to business licenses for cigar clubs and hookah clubs, but that adult oriented establishme- screw that, it's too long to type.

Strip clubs can continue to operate or get started because they're protected under the First Amendment. That's right. Girlie clubs have a constitutional right to operate in my town, but air polluters do not.

For those who have forgotten the wording, here's the text of the First Amendment:
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
Now, since when does any of that cover a strip club?

Loosely the First Amendment has been stretched to include non-verbal forms of speech which basically means freedom of expression although it's not expressly stated there. So strippers and exotic dancers can continue to express themselves, although they must maintain a distance of 300 feet from any other "adult oriented business", church, park, residence or school. The city is thinking about extending that distance to 500 feet but in a town this small that would pretty much eliminate most of them in one shot. And there are other restrictions requiring opaque covering of private body parts and such, so it's not *really* a true freedom of expression but acknowledgment that they can express themselves in an almost uncovered manner.

But cigar smokers and hookah smokers cannot smoke. There's no code in place for it which is why the City Council reviewed it, but they denied it. I guess smoking isn't covered as an expression or a hookah lounge couldn't slide in under the right to peaceful assembly of individuals. There are laws in the state about no smoking in bars or enclosed businesses, but cigar clubs and hookah lounges do exist in the state, so I guess there are loopholes but not in my town. They are not free to express themselves through tobacco or fruit smoke.

Oh, and permits for the strip clubs have to be applied for at the local Police Department instead of from the Chamber of Commerce. They'll be approved or denied based on objective criteria. I wonder if the criteria involves inspecting the girls first? OK, that was a low blow to the cops, but where I live? Trust me, it's a small town on the edge of a very big city...

...the cops don't have anything better to do most days when they're not circling the park looking for rogue ice cream trucks.