A half-dozen strippers paraded topless outside a rural Ohio church as its parishioners entered and exited this Sunday as a counterprotest to the church's efforts to close their business.
A total of 30 dancers, friends, fellow employees, and strip industry executives gathered outside New Beginnings Ministries in Warsaw, Ohio, on Sunday, the second week the sex workers protested the evangelical church's strong moral stance.
The church, which has about 125 members in a city of 700, has protested the Foxhole North, located just nine miles down the road from its sanctuary, for years.
Thomas George who owns that location and the Foxhole South in the southeastern Ohio city of Zanesville, tried to get a legal injunction that would prevent church members from protesting within one mile of his business.
The evangelical church regularly holds prayer vigils outside the tiny, nondescript club, offering its employees God's love and a better life. Pastor Bill Dunfee said he regularly spoke with strippers. “I told them I will put a roof over their heads, their bills will be paid and their children’s stomachs will be full,” he said.
He added that at least one employee has left the industry as a result of his church's outreach.
But George told the Coshocton Tribune that the protestors' behavior was “not Christian-like, not what I read in my Bible.”
The previous weekend, about 14 people protested outside the Warsaw church. Dunfee told the Zanesville Times Recorder at that time that one dancer exposed herself to a woman who belongs to his fellowship.
The business faced no fines, since courts have interpreted Ohio statutory law as allowing men and women to go topless, requiring only that the lower half of their bodies be covered.
This weekend, the church instructed its members – especially women and children – to come through the back entrance, behind a tarp that shielded them from the topless protesters.
As the bare-chested women marched down the sidewalk in front of the church, strategically raising and lowering their signs, members of the church sang “Amazing Grace” and marched backwards in front of them, holding up signs that blocked their breasts from public view. One of the church's signs said simply, “Lust is Sin.”
Among those who took part in the latest protest is Greg Flaig, the executive director of Owners Coalition, a coalition of strip club owners which says its goal is to “improve the Adult business images in Ohio.”
The topless protests have been widely reported, stretching from the small Ohio town to the New York Daily News and USA Today.
The group's tactics are reminiscent of Femen, a group of women who protest topless, and often in a violent fashion, in favor of abortion-on-demand and homosexuality in Europe. The Ukrainian-based organization was first led by Viktor Svyatski, who hand-picked the most attractive women for maximum propaganda effect.
Its members attacked the Archbishop of Madrid, Cardinal Antonio Rouco Varela, in February, pelting him with – in their words – “a rain of panties soaked with the blood of our illegal abortions.”
The bare-breasted women also assaulted the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in Belgium, Archbishop Andre-Joseph Leonard, last April over his views of homosexuality. Archbishop Leonard humbly knelt and prayed as the angry activists doused him with water.
Dunfee has vowed not to back down, instead saying he will address the protests during Sunday School next week. The protests are “shameful,” he said, and only serve to strengthen his ministry and his efforts to stop the sex industry's inroads in Ohio.