Pole Dance Instruction and the First Amendment

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From the ACS blog:

When Stephanie Babines sought a permit to open a dance studio in a Pennsylvania town she was rebuffed by officials who claimed her studio was actually an adult business. Now with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, Babines is arguing in federal court that the Adams Township’s action violated her free speech and expression rights protected by the First Amendment. According to the ACLU of Pennsylvania’s press release on the matter, Babines is seeking to open a dance-and-fitness studio in the town that would provide lessons in”pole dancing, hoop aerobics, power law dance, ‘stiletto strut,’ salsa dancing, belly dancing, cardio kickboxing, and ‘SeXXXercise (an ‘Abs and Core Work Out) – all fully clothed.”

Adams Township officials, however, denied Babines an occupancy permit, arguing that the proposed business would be too close to a residential area and bar. The ACLU of Pennsylvania’s lawsuit states that Adams Township officials called Babines’ proposed business provocative,”full of sexual ‘innuendo,’ and too dangerous for their township.”Jeff Brown, chairman of the township’s zoning board, told The New York Times that,”Each township and community gets to make their own laws. And I’m sure what they allow in San Francisco and other places is different from what we do here in Adams Township.”

Babines, in the ACLU press release, claims her studio is”not a strip joint or gentleman’s club.”Instead, her classes are designed to provide exercises for”women that allows them to have fun, feel confident about their bodies and express their sexuality.”

The lawsuit asserts that the township’s denial of the permit violated Babines’”First Amendment rights”because the decision”was based on the expressive content of the dance classes.”

While I might question why people want to take pole dance classes, I’d never question their right to do do if they want to. This kind of attempt at controlling what women do with their own bodies is truly appalling.

–Ann Bartow

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