Analysis: SB 16 Repeal Hits A Reef

COLUMBUS, Oh. – In 1869, the Ohio Supreme Court opined, in a school prayer case, "United with government, religion never rises above the merest superstition; united with religion, government never rises above the merest despotism; and all history shows us that the more widely and completely they are separated, the better it is for both."

My, how times – and religio-political sensibilities – have changed!

Today, in its daily propaganda mailing, Family Research Council (FRC) cheered, "A great victory was awarded to Ohio citizens recently when a group representing strip club owners and dancers failed to collect enough valid signatures to give voters a chance to overturn a law that prohibits patrons from touching strippers and halts nude dancing after midnight, the state's top elections official said Friday... Ohio's Citizens for Community Values, led by my good friend Phil Burress, deserves great praise for getting the law passed and for defending it against this petition drive. Meeting great leaders like Phil is another reason to join us next month at The Washington Briefing: Values Voter Summit."

The "Values Voter Summit," of course, is a conference whose objective is to bring religion and government closer together ... which is exactly what will happen in Ohio if SB 16 remains law through voter inaction.

But although FRC claimed that the petition drive was "rife with fraud," and that "many of the alleged 'signers' were actually deceased," adding that that proved that "nothing seems to be out of bounds for the Larry Flynt wannabes who own and operate the strip clubs," the reality is quite different.

"Ones of the things that was really disappointing was, tens of thousands of the people who signed really were registered voters; they just were not registered at the address they listed on the petitions," explained community activist Sandy Theis. "A lot of them had moved since the last time they voted, and that's a pretty common problem with these sorts of drives ... In Franklin and Cuyahoga Counties [where, respectively, Columbus and Cleveland are located], had all the people who were registered who signed had given the right address, our validation rate would have been nearly 60%."

However, the rate was much less than that, and overall, nearly three-quarters of the approximately 400,000 signatures collected were ruled invalid by the Secretary of State's office, leaving just 125,430 valid signatures.

"We're still pretty optimistic that we can make the ballot," said Theis. "We have people now going door-to-door with lists of registered voters so they know you are registered there and you live there, so they go there and ask you specifically to sign. It takes a lot longer but it's a lot more accurate."

"From the time we turned in our first round until now, we've collected over 100,000 additional signatures," she added, "but we collected those through the same process that we collected the first nearly 400,000, so we have to assume that the validation rate there isn't very good either."

"The two really awful counties were Lucas County, where Toledo is located, and Franklin County, where Columbus is located. Those were the two with less than 30% validation rate. Franklin County was about 26%, and we thought that was a real good county for us. Ohio State is here, a lot of students, a lot of young people; it's a Democrat-leading county."

But the free speech advocates still have 10 days from the date of their official notification by the Secretary of State's office (expected either today or tomorrow) to make up the approximately 116,000 shortfall – and the process hasn't gotten any less expensive.

"Pretty much all of the money collected so far has gone to the signature-gathering company; over a million dollars," Theis explained, "but in order for this drive to succeed, we'll need more. I know this is disappointing news to a lot of people, but the fight is more important than anyone's feelings."

Contributions to the petition effort can be accomplished on the organization's website ( Contributions, large or small, can also be mailed to:

c/o Rondee Kamins
3700 Kelley Ave.
Cleveland, OH 44114


C/O LD Management
Attention: Jim Everett
110 East Wilson Ridge Rd. Suite 100
Worthington, Ohio 43085

(Make checks payable to "BACE.")