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Published: Monday, 7/9/2007

Christian group wants rival to change name in strip club fight

ASSOCIATED PRESS

COLUMBUS A conservative Christian group that succeeded in getting the state Legislature to place new restrictions on strip clubs is accusing an opposition group of copying its name to confuse the public over a ballot initiative.

The law, which takes effect Sept. 4, prohibits patrons from touching strippers and halts nude dancing after midnight. The statewide crackdown cleared the Republican-controlled Legislature in May and was allowed to become law by Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland without his signature.

Strip club owners and other opponents are trying to overturn the law by collecting enough signatures to place the issue on the November ballot. They call themselves Citizens for Community Standards, a swipe at Cincinnati-based Citizens for Community Values, the religious group that pushed for the restrictions.

Charles Allen, a Virginia attorney who specializes in intellectual property rights and represents the Christian group, sent a letter Tuesday to opponents demanding that they stop using the name.

Allen accused opponents of picking a similar name with the intention of creating confusion and misleading voters.

That s not the case, argues Sandy Theis, spokeswoman for Citizens for Community Standards.

We picked the name for one reason because it accurately reflects what we stand for, Theis said. We believe local communities should determine what is good for them, and we define community as a local government.

Citizens for Community Values has had a trademark on its name since the early 1990s and will consider asking a judge for a restraining order if strip club supporters continue using the similar name, said David Miller, a vice president with the religious group.

Club owners argue the law is an unconstitutional infringement on free speech and expression. They need to collect about 240,000 signatures a number that equals 6 percent of the total vote cast in the 2006 governor s race to get the issue on the ballot.

Citizens for Community Values, which spearheaded the 2004 amendment that bans gay marriages in Ohio, argues that the restrictions will reduce crimes such as prostitution and illegal drug use and decrease blight in neighborhoods where strip clubs operate.

Read more in later editions of The Blade and toledoblade.com.



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