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Nudism & naturism

Conflicts: 2000-OCT to now

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The following is a continuation of a separate essay

Conflicts over nudism/naturism

2000-OCT-23: Importing naturist magazines: Naturist magazines often include pictures of naked men and women of all ages. Thus, they occasionally come under fire with charges of obscenity and child pornography. This Court of Appeals decision carefully analyzed a group of nudist magazines, and decided that they meet none of the three parts of the standard Miller guidelines on obscenity. A previous court ruling, Miller v. California, 413 U.S. 15 (1973), had specified that three criteria had to all be present in order to judge a work as obscene:
  1. "Whether 'the average person, applying contemporary community standards' would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest; 
  2. Whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law; 
  3. Whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value."

Further, they found that the magazines have protection under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, since they are promoting a political cause: that of keeping naturism free of government regulations. 

The District Court had found that an import shipment of 264 French and German nudist magazines were obscene, and thus not protected under the 1st Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The magazines contained numerous photos of nude males and females of all ages.

The Court of Appeals found that the magazines were not obscene:
bullet The photographs "are primarily focused on children's activities, not on the children's bodies." They concluded "that the District Court clearly erred in finding that these magazines appeal to the prurient interest because they contain photographs of nudist children around the world engaged in activities typical of children." 
bullet The Appeals Court referred to a New Jersey case which amplified the second criterion above to include material that
"[d]epicts or describes in a patently offensive way, ultimate sexual acts, normal or perverted, actual or simulated, masturbation, excretory functions, or lewd exhibition of the genitals." The court decided that fact that the children's "genitals are visible is incidental to their being nude, but it is not the focal point of any of the photographs." They also found that "All of the photographs are of smiling, happy, and playful subjects, and none can be deemed lewd by any standard." Thus, they found that "the magazines fall far outside the zone of 'hard core sexual conduct' that may constitutionally be found to be 'patently offensive.' "
bullet They found that the magazines have significant political value, and thus have protection under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution: 

"Nudists are members of an alternative community, and the magazines champion nudists' alternative lifestyle, which lifestyle the nudist community may feel is in danger of being curtailed by government regulation... publications dedicated to presenting a visual depiction of an alternative lifestyle, a depiction with a decidedly Utopian flavor, have political value similar to the political value of articles criticizing government regulation of that and other lifestyles." 1

bullet 2001-FEB-15: Anti-naturist law in New Hampshire: A House bill, NH HB437, was debated in a committee. The bill, as proposed, would have criminalized Parenting magazine, medical texts, etc. The bill has been referred to a House sub-committee.
bullet 2001-MAY: WI: Conservative Christians demonstrate at free beach: Wisconsin Christians United (WCU) demonstrated near the state-owned riverfront beach area near Mazomanie WI. The beach is maintained by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR), and has become a popular location for nude bathing. Janet Ovadal, a WCU spokesperson, told Wisconsin Christian News that "DNR officers treated the Christians with contempt throughout the day, making numerous threats of arrest, based on the content of the messages being shared with beachgoers." The WCU regards their protests as successful, because the number of nudists is decreasing. Pastor Ralph Ovadal, leder of the WCU, concluded:
"By the grace of God, we have achieved much in this struggle. However, we know that if we were to walk away now, it would soon be business as usual...We cannot and will not walk away from this battle without a total victory. There is too much at stake." 2
bullet 2001-JUL-29: WI: Bill banning nudity on public lands defeated: Republicans attached an amendment to the Wisconsin budget that would have prohibited nudity on public lands administered by the State Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The Democrat-controlled Senate removed the amendment during a joint conference session.
bullet 2001-JUL-29: USA: Naturist Action Committee (NAC) fights Children's Online Protection Act (COPA): NAC joined with 19 other plaintiffs under the leadership of the American Civil Liberties Union to challenge this law. COPA requires libraries to censor constitutionally protected online speech. The American Library Association has filed a similar challenge. The two lawsuits have been consolidated by the court and will be heard together.
bullet 2002-FEB-20?: ME: Students beat indecency charge: Two female students at the University of Maine went streaking near their school. The police caught them and charged both with indecent conduct. One of the defendants argued that the law applies only to perpetrators who "knowingly expose their genitals in public." One of the women asked the arresting officer if he "saw my genitalia." He was forced to reply that he had not. The judge, a woman, noted that female genitalia are "primarily internal," and thus not visible, dismissed the charges for lack of evidence.

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2002-JUN-1: WI: Pastor fined for harassing woman at nude beach: Members of the Fundamentalist Christian Christ the King Church regularly frequent the parking lot of the state-run Mazomanie nude beach. According to a Wisconsin Christians United press release, a regular beach-goer, Nancy J Erikson:

"... who delights in mocking Christians doing ministry in the beach parking lot, got out of her car and began to loudly direct obscene language toward Nicolas Bergum, a young Christian man who had offered her a gospel tract. When Pastor Ovadal walked over to the scene, the woman then faced him and engaged in a lewd dance with her tongue hanging out. At that point, Pastor Ovadal preached for several minutes to her and also several minutes to Department of Natural Resources wardens.

To the wardens, he allegedly said:

"How many young men are corrupted by whores who act like this? How many children are destroyed? How many young boys get their start on a path of slavery because of this sort of woman? ...Why don't you tell her she's acting like a whore? Why don't you be a real man? Do you care about the little children? Do you care about the young men? How many young men will be corrupted by the likes of this?...All the poor young men that will be caught up in this woman's trap - Their minds destroyed; their bodies used up."

The wardens insisted that he not use the word "whore" in his preaching." Ovadal was later charged with criminal disorderly conduct, found guilty, and fined $1,000 and court costs. Erickson had asked also that he be given a jail sentence of ninety days. The judge declined, saying that it would be too expensive to administer and it would probably not change pastor Ovadal's behavior. During the sentencing hearing, the judge said to Pastor Ovadal:

"I think you and I have different thoughts on what is preaching...Yes, I called your conduct cruel, savage, wasn't preaching....By relying on terms such as 'whore,' 'harlot,' and 'jezebel' to describe Erickson, the Defendant exited the protective confines of the First Amendment and exposed himself to state prosecution."

Ovadal apparently links the nude beach to the sexual abuse of children. He responded:

"I preached the whole counsel of God's Word to Nancy Jo Erickson. I did it for her sake; I did it for the sake of the young men on the beach; I did it for the sake of the children of Mazo beach and the children of the rest of the state, including my new grandson who was just born last week; and most importantly, I did it out of my duty as a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I will not apologize for my preaching, because it would be wrong to apologize for doing right."

Afterwards, Pastor Ovadal and his supporters went to the head office of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources -- the group who administers the nude beach. They picketed and distributed a flyer titled "Is the Department of Natural Resources a Protector of Perverts and Child Abusers?" 3


2003-OCT-7: WI: Pastor's harassment conviction upheld: The state appeals court upheld Ovadal's conviction. He acknowledged that his street preaching and sidewalk evangelizing, was loud and boisterous. But he claimed that it was protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The appeals court decided that resorting to "epithets or personal abuse" is not protected speech. It ruled that: "Ovadal's statements had nothing to do with an exposition of ideas. Instead, they were abusive fighting words and are not protected by the First Amendment." 4


2004-SEP-23: CA: Being naked not a crime: George Moonty Davis, known locally as "The Naked Yoga Guy," has been posing naked in San Francisco in order to promote a book and his lifestyle. Someone lodged a complaint when they saw him near Fisherman's Wharf -- a popular tourist location. Prosecutors decided that the local laws do not bar public nudity, and that they would have a weak case against him, based only on public nuisance bylaws. Debbie Mesioh, spokesperson for the district attorney's office said: "Simply being naked on the street is not a crime in San Francisco." 5


2006-SEP-02: VT: Nude teens: During the early summer, a young woman stripped off her clothes and sat on a park bench in Brattleboro, VT. The practice spread, until a group of teens has recently been disrobing near restaurants, bookstores and galleries. Police Chief John Martin said: "Brattleboro tends to be a laid-back town and pretty accepting of the unusual, but this is really pushing limits. It's clearly to outrage people, it's clearly rebelliousness." Adhi Palar, 19, said: "It's just an act of freedom. We're just doing so because we can. [We] ... do not consider nakedness to be innately sexual or rude and it shouldn't be confined to that." The state has no law against public nudity. Brattleboro is considering passing a bylaw of its own. 6

bullet 2008-AUG-10: CA: San Onofre Nudist Beach to close:


  1. "U.S. Court of Appeals, Third Circuit: U.S. v. Alessandra's Smile, Inc.," 2000-OCT-23. See:
  2. "Christians in Wisconsin battle public nude beach," Wichita Chronicle, at:
  3. "Pastor fined $1,000 for preaching the priceless gospel of Jesus Christ. Sentence to be appealed," Wisconsin Christians United Press Release, at:,5-30.htm
  4. "Ovadal's beach rant ruled unconstitutional," Associated Press, 2003-OCT-7, at:
  5. "Safe haven for naked yoga," Soputh African Broadcasting Corp., 2004-SEP-23, at:
  6. Lisa Rathke, "Nude Teens Raising Eyebrows in Vermont," Associated Press, 2006-SEP-02, at:

Copyright 1996 to 2009 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2009-SEP-06
Author: B.A. Robinson

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