Community members react to adult entertainment ordinance revisions

Published 4:08 pm Friday, July 28, 2023

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At the commissioners’ meeting this month, the board voted 6-1 to include changes in the adult entertainment zoning ordinance. Commissioner Peter Asciutto voted against the motion which redefined “adult businesses” as “adult establishments and uses including adult live entertainment.” Adult live entertainment is now defined in the ordinance as “A performance featuring topless dancers, exotic dancers, strippers, or male or female impersonators who provide entertainment that appeals to a prurient interest, regardless of whether or not performed for consideration.”

Members of the arts and religious communities were asked this week to prepare written statements regarding the commissioners’ decision about including male and female impersonators under the adult entertainment definition.

Three ministers, three representatives from the theatrical community and an associate professor of religion at Pfeiffer University responded. Here are their statements in full, listed alphabetically according to their last names.

Pastor Stoney Benfield, Prospect Baptist Church

As a Bible believing Christian and the senior pastor of Prospect Baptist Church, I applaud the commissioners’ vote that puts tighter restrictions on this kind of activity.

With that being said, as a Bible believing Christian, I cannot condone or be in favor of any adult entertainment establishment, regardless of this new restriction.

The Bible states in Matthew 19:4-6 that “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh?’ “So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, let not man separate.”

And in Hebrews 13:4, it states “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge.”

The Scriptures teach that God designed all sexual interests and relations to only occur between a biologically-born man and a biologically-born woman within the privacy and confines of a biblical marriage, and these should never be displayed in a public forum whatsoever.

Obviously, these biblical standards are willfully broken in the activities that occur at these adult entertainment establishments.

Again, I appreciate the decision of the commissioners in this case. However, no ordinance, permit, rule change, text amendment, etc. will fix the root of the issue, which is that the hearts and minds of men, women, boys, and girls must be transformed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Lisa Ewers, chairperson of the Uwharrie Players Board of Directors

As far back as Ancient Greece, men have portrayed women in the theatre. At that time, women were not allowed as they had no rights as citizens; only land-owning men could be citizens, and only citizens of Greece were allowed to participate. So, all roles, male and female, were played by men.

In Japan, we have the Kabuki theatre. Originally, Kabuki was performed by all women. Performances were typically relegated to the Japanese “red-light” districts and the women were also often prostitutes. In the 17th century, women were outlawed from the stage, due partly to the connection with prostitution. So, men portrayed all the roles, male and female.

In England in the Middle Ages, Christianity became the prevalent religion in Europe and theatre had been abolished. This was due to the fact that Romans used theatres as venues to execute Christian martyrs. Around the 10th century, dramatic re-enactments of scripture emerged in church services. Because this was started by the priests of the churches, the roles were performed solely by men (the priests). A man portrayed Eve, as well as Mary.

In continuing our history of “cross-dressing” in theatre, let’s look at the most famous playwright of all, William Shakespeare. Yes, all Shakespearean plays were performed solely by men. In “Romeo and Juliet,” it was typically a young boy who played Juliet.

As for more familiar cross-dressing plays and television characters, I submit the following as a tiny sampling of plays, movies and television shows where cross-dressing and/or a topless male performer is a key component of the show:
“South Pacific,” “Leading Ladies,” “Victor, Victoria,” “Some Like it Hot,” “Yentl,” “Disney’s Mulan,” “Mrs. Doubtfire,” “Hairspray,” “Chicago,” “Shakespeare in Love,” “M*A*S*H,” “Bosom Buddies” and “Three’s Company.”

Now to speak to the “prurient interest, regardless of whether or not performed for consideration.” Depending on a person’s perspective, almost anything could potentially be prurient.

Finally, I speak to the residents of Stanly County’s choice. We can all choose what we expose ourselves and our children to. I’m not sure why drag shows are considered “a danger to our children” from which we need to protect them, but I will say this: If anything with a cross-dressing component is offensive to an individual, such as a drag show, or a theatre production, or a movie, or a television show, then don’t partake.

But don’t ban it for the people who choose to expose themselves and their children to good and intellectually stimulating art. Ultimately, this is just a form of censorship. If this is permitted, then what’s next?

Pastor Adam Hatley, West Albemarle Baptist Church

As a Christian, a pastor and a citizen of Stanly County, I appreciate and fully support the recent decision by our county commissioners to expand the ordinance on adult entertainment to include prurient interest, specifically as it relates to male and female impersonators (drag queens).

This ordinance will serve to help protect our children from exposure to deviant behavior which strives to confuse, distort and corrupt what God has created as good.

In Genesis 1:27 we are told that God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. Until recently in our nation, I have never seen such a demonic effort to indoctrinate and confuse our society and specifically our children over what has always been clear from the beginning as it relates to our God-given identity, marriage and sexual purity.

It is extremely unpopular and considered narrow-minded today to speak out against society’s redefining of the family, the individual, marriage and sex. But truth is always narrow. Two plus two will always equal four, regardless of whether I want it to, and that truth does not change.

The Word of God is truth without error, and like God, it is unchanging. It is true in season and out of season and in all seasons. And whenever God’s truth is challenged by anyone or any group, or even an entire society, the truth will always prevail and so will those who are courageous enough to uphold it. To say that a Christian is narrow-minded because we actually believe and stand on and teach what the Bible says is not a condemnation. It is a compliment. And with that said, I want to compliment our commissioners on their recent stand.

While it is my prayer that all adult entertainment will eventually be banished from our community, I know that responsibility ultimately lies not at the feet of our governing authorities but is the call of the Church of Jesus Christ to share His truth in love that alone will set the sinner free.

Pastor Clint Lewey, Friendship Baptist Church

I commend the moral integrity of the six commissioners who adopted safeguards regarding drag shows and prurient interests.

However, plain talk is easily understood. Tap-dancing around the word prurient may satisfy legal scholars, but we must speak to day-to-day reality.

We need community leaders who will boldly declare that the transgender lifestyle and drag shows are lewd behavior.

Our faith in God — clearly recognized by the Pledge of Allegiance and every public invocation — is the basis on which we say that “God made them male and female.”

Normalization is the goal. Evil men do not need your children to be transgender; they only need your children to think it normal for others.

By only regulating drag shows to a certain corner of town, we are still normalizing the behavior.

We must have courageous leadership who will boldly say that the transgender lifestyle is an affront to God, and it is lewd conduct that is dangerous for our community. We absolutely oppose this evil at every level.

Kate White, Miss Stanly County 2022 and Talent Company board member

To my understanding, the new ordinance is phrased most loosely as “no strip clubs.”

That’s an easy tagline, because, of course, that’s not how we want our community to grow. At its tightest, however, I am forced to speak as an advocate for the arts and theater.

The arts are essential to our community. It takes a team to put on a play, a team that puts in long hours for free. It’s mainly voluntary and at this point in time, largely made up of women.

It’s not uncommon for a woman to play the role of a man — because we simply don’t have enough men to fill every role. That is not sexual. That is not prurient. Yet, because of how someone can perceive it that has an option to attend (or not) can decide differently?

Continuing cultural awareness requires some liberties. Providing an opportunity for people to tastefully express themselves requires some liberties.

This ordinance has the potential to do great harm to live theater and take away opportunities and passions from so many, and we as a community should not be okay with that.

If you don’t resonate any of that, at the very least you should be afraid that our freedom to create is slowly being taken away from us.

Rev. Kevin Taylor, associate professor of religion, Pfeiffer University

When American religious leaders attempt to legislate morality and restrict civil freedoms, it usually doesn’t work out too well. The Puritans silenced Anne Hutchinson in the 1600s in Boston and then faded into nonexistence. She is now seen as the American hero of the story.

Religious authorities have supported slavery, racial segregation, the Scopes monkey trial and creationism and Prohibition and these were all social failures. More recently, North Carolina’s HB2 and Amendment 1 had support from some religious communities and they also failed.

Instead, religion has typically blossomed in America when it has been connected with religious and political freedom: the founding of the nation as a place of human freedom, religious choices with denominations, the crusade to abolish slavery, the struggle against Communism during the Cold War and the civil rights movement.

Renee Van Horn, executive director, Stanly County Arts Council

As our county commissioners embark in enforcing this new ordinance, we encourage them to share the belief that the arts is a safe space for all to express their creativity, and not limit our local artists and arts organizations in their pursuits.

About Charles Curcio

Charles Curcio has served as the sports editor of the Stanly News & Press for more than 16 years and has written numerous news and feature storeis as well. He was awarded the NCHSAA Tim Stevens Media Representative of the Year and named CNHI Sports Editor of the Year in 2014. He has also won an award from Boone Newspapers, and has won four North Carolina Press Association awards.

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