Precious Freedoms Extend To All


It's difficult to see much that's socially redeeming in a group of young women baring their bodies before a roomful of beer-guzzling patrons, but it was just a matter of time before a place like the Juniper Lounge at Pete's Place came to the Rim country.

Several churches have organized their members to sign petitions, attend the Gila County Board of Supervisors meeting March 16 in Globe, and otherwise let their displeasure be known.

According to Susan North, one of the leaders of the opposition, a topless bar runs counter to the Christian principles held by a majority of the residents of the Rim country.

North and others who oppose what's going on at Pete's Place certainly have every right to do what they're doing, and they should be commended for the nonconfrontational manner in which they're doing it.

But like most issues, the opening of a "cabaret" in Star Valley doesn't lend itself to a one-dimensional solution.

For one thing, Pete's Place owner Joe Soldevere is playing by the rules, such as they are. As he told Gila County District One Supervisor Ron Christensen, if somebody had to open a "cabaret" in the Rim country, we're fortunate it was a local resident with a stake in the community.

And then there's the larger constitutional issue, one that Christensen wisely pointed out -- the U.S. Constitution and its amendments not only allow freedom of religion, but also freedom of expression, especially when it doesn't intrude on the rights of others.

The ordinance the county is introducing regarding sexually oriented businesses should prove a useful weapon for controlling such ventures. But the operational word is "controlling." By law, Gila County cannot ban topless bars.

"According to a ruling of the Supreme Court, there has to be a place where they can go, and we want what we do to stand up in court," Christensen said.

To do otherwise would amount to tilting at windmills, or, to put it another way, spending taxpayers' money very foolishly. Besides, as Christensen pointed out, once you start taking away freedoms, where do you stop?

When a local Christian group accosted young people last year outside the Payson Public Library because they were attending a Harry Potter event, the community was revulsed. But we all recognized their right to do what they did.

The words of poet John Ciardi come to mind: "The Constitution gives every American the inalienable right to make a damn fool of himself."

Or, as journalist William Allen White put it, "Liberty is the only thing you cannot have unless you are willing to give it to others."

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