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Crossing the Christian Coalition



Randy Morris and Win Adams are certain to draw a rebuke from the Religious Right, should they seek re-election in November 1998 to their seats on the Seminole County Commission. Two other commissioners, Daryl McLain and Dick Van Der Weide, have until 2000 to feel the heat of the conservative political lobby. ;;In rejecting a restrictive anti-nudity proposal July 22, these four sidetracked an initiative close to the hearts of the Christian Coalition and the American Family Association, while setting themselves up for the group’s hit list. ;;"The Christian Coalition is strong everywhere," says David Wasserman, the attorney for licensed adult clubs in the county. "They may have 10 [members] here, 25 there, but they will get 10,000 people calling you." Yet, of the five-member commission, only newcomer Grant Maloy agreed with the lobbyists’ viewpoint.;;So what was it that prompted the commission -- which had approved the use of the American Center for Law and Justice, a legal arm of the Christian Coalition, to write the anti-nudity law and others restricting adult clubs -- to set aside the anti-nudity proposal after more than three months of work?;;Insisting he was unaffected by the prospect of a conservative backlash, Morris says the commission returned to the drawing board after learning from its sheriff and prosecutors that the law would be tough to enforce. "This was not a tool that was being requested," he says -- a curious revelation after three months of deliberations.;;Of course, a similar law has been used to bust nude beachgoers in Brevard County. But that law, according to a letter from the Brevard County Attorney, allows for a nude dancing school as freedom of expression. Land-locked Seminole is concerned with clubs, not beaches. ;;The commission protected its peers in the county’s municipalities, which had been named in a lawsuit filed on behalf of the licensed adult clubs. As part of an agreement, that suit was dropped, and the clubs agreed to work with the county on self-regulation and abandon threats to open more clubs in other Seminole cities. The county will continue its war with unlicensed clubs whose openings launched the push for tougher laws.;;This happened in the absence of the American Center for Law and Justice’s attorney. With David Cortman tending to an ailing wife, his sophisticated rightist agenda was replaced by ministers preaching about family values. Says Morris, "Everybody was wrapped firmly in the Bible or wrapped firmly in the Constitution.";;This time, the commission sided with the Constitution. But the ordinance will resurface in three months "in a hybrid form," cautions Morris, when commissioners consider a range of options, including a moderate form that borrows language from Orange County, where the policing -- for now at least -- is much less strident than in neighboring counties.

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