Oregon Town Divided Over Nudity PolicyDecember 14, 2009 - 3:19 PM | by: Dan Springer
Ashland, Oregon is a town known for an annual Shakespeare Festival, its free thinkers and increasingly…nudity. The city council has been grappling with the issue of public nudity ever since a woman moved there from California several years ago. Her frequent displays of nakedness led the city council to pass an ordinance banning nudity in city parks and downtown.
For whatever reason Ashland’s reputation as a place where nudity is accepted was cemented. It’s not that uncommon, many say to see someone walking down the street with nothing more than a belly pack and tennis shoes. Last May the issue turned more serious when a retired computer programmer was spotted walking nude around an elementary school as the kids were leaving for home. One city councilman proposed creating a buffer zone around schools. The effort failed.
Fast forward to October and there was another naked man walking around several schools. He came all the way from Minnesota. The police arrived and had to protect the man from angry parents. The cops told the parents the man was doing nothing illegal. That incident has prompted yet another attempt to legislate nudity in Ashland.
The mayor proposed banning nudity city-wide. That touched off yes, naked protests from those who feel nudity is a form of free speech. And to be sure there is some history of naked protests in Ashland. Anti-war demonstrators held a “buns not bombs” protest attended by one of the city councilmen.
This week the council will take up the mayor’s proposal in what figures to be an interesting debate. The city attorney will be asked to clarify how the ordinance does not violate a person’s right to expression. If the council passes the ordinance it will actually de-criminalize public nudity in Ashland. Currently it’s a misdemeanor to be naked in the parks or downtown. The proposal calls for nakedness to be a violation similar to a parking ticket.