UNIONTOWN, Ind. - The Lion's Den Adult Superstore of Uniontown has sued Jackson County, Indiana, where the store is located, as well as several county officials, charging that the county has illegally ignored its own zoning laws to favor a religious pro-censorship group, Jackson County Watchdog - whose Website, war-line.org, posts photos of Lion's Den customers and employees, together with snarky captions like the one under a shot of three women walking: "Group suffering from cranial/rectum inversion."
The basis of the lawsuit is two-fold: First, that the county allowed the protesters, who harass customers 24/7, to erect a shack on county land adjacent to the store's property in violation of the county's zoning laws, and second, that its harassment techniques, which have allegedly cause the store to lose over $300,000 in business over the past six months, have violated the store's free speech rights, as well as its substantive due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment.
Lion's Den's attorney, prominent First Amendment advocate J. Michael Murray, was not available for comment, but he previously explained to a reporter for the Indianapolis Star, "The speech that my clients engage in and the point of view they represent is not popular among some segments of society and government officials in Jackson County. The whole point of the First Amendment is to protect views that aren't popular with people of power."
The War-Line group has targeted Lion's Den since before the store opened three years ago, and claim that they will remain there, taking photos of customers and recording their license plate numbers, "however long it takes" to get the store to shut down. The harassers typical approach customers as they are getting out of their cars (or trucks - there's a special section on war-line.org which "outs" trucking companies that allow their drivers to shop at Lion's Den, and a sign by the illegal shed reading, "Warning truckers. If you visit this adult bookstore, we will take your picture and send it to your employer") and attempt to hand them bibles.
Retired engineer Ralph Sweany organized the group in response to the rape and murder of a 10-year-old girl in a nearby town - which occurred even before Lion's Den had opened its doors.
According to its website - which for some reason keeps referring to itself as "War-Line.net" - the group's mission "is dedicated to communities taking back their neighborhoods from the devastating effects of sexually oriented businesses" and "will assist any group of people, any church, local government or any organization with planning, organizing and implementing a successful plan to rid your neighborhood of sex businesses."
Moreover, "WAR-LINE.NET will expose all who participate in porn. This includes customers, owners and operators. We will post their pictures on the world wide web for all to see. In some cases we will distribute flyers in their neighborhoods as a public service if we consider them dangerous, or in the case of a public official, negligent of duty."
The threat to follow customers and employees of Lion's Den to their homes and distribute flyers is hardly the only one War-Line makes. "WAR-LINE.NET will boldly expose government officials, police, government agencies and even judges if they demonstrate corruption or lack of spine in enforcing federal, state and local laws which they are empowered to enforce in the protection of the people they are pledged to serve," the site says, adding, "WAR-LINE.NET will provide undercover sting operations on the porn industry to fully expose the reality of the serious crime and danger sex businesses bring to family neighborhoods." (Lion's Den, being located at an off-ramp of I-65, 80 miles south of Indianapolis, is hardly in a "family neighborhood." The nearest town has just 50 residents.)
The site includes several other overt and implied threats. For example, their "GOTCHA!" page, which posts photos of customers, carries this "WORD OF WARNING": "Experience and history over the past 5 years clearly prove virtually everyone posted will eventually be discovered by family, friends, even employers and church members. It's your decision to enter a sex business. Just be prepared to pay the cost of exposure." [emphasis added]
In other words, although there is nothing to indicate that Lion's Den's customers (or employees) have ever harmed anyone in any way, but have merely sought to enhance their sex lives through movies and novelties purchased at the store, War-Line's toadies nonetheless plan to "out" the customers' sexual interests, thereby encouraging customers' families, neighbors and friends to ostracize them - if not get them fired from their jobs - for engaging in harmless, First Amendment-protected activity. The site even has a special page devoted to "Hard Core Customers": Those who "insist on being confrontational" by giving protesters "the finger." These are the ones War-Line considers "dangerous," and the page threatens to "take legal action and demand vigorous prosecution if you threaten or attack a protester," as well as "distribute flyers in your neighborhood if you pose a threat to any protester as a public service to your surrounding neighbors."
One such "dangerous person" whose license plate War-Line noted was singled out for special attention on the site's "Opinion" page , which claims that driver, one Sunday, "attacked protesters exercising their first amendment right to protest something that offends them and brings danger to families."
"You are living proof why the protesters in Uniontown must stay in front of the Lion's Den for the protection of their families," the unsigned "opinion" continues. "The protesters you attacked included women and in the presence of a 5 year old granddaughter who had just stopped by to visit for a few minutes. You were told immediately a child was present upon your presence and you went forward with violence anyway. WAR-LINE now has pictures, video and audio of your cowardly act."
"Fortunately no one was physically hurt, but we will not rest with that," the piece threatens. "We will track you down from your license plate. WAR-LINE considers you a danger to innocent people and even children as you so vividly proved on Sunday, June 22. As a public service to the people of your community, WAR-LINE will sometime in the future come to your neighborhood and distribute flyers and accurately tell and show your dangerous acts upon people for the purpose of porn... We may do this next week, next month or sometime later, but rest assured we will come. WAR-LINE will keep your picture up on this website for all to see for as long as it takes until you answer for your violent actions... If you ignore this message, we will consider you are not the least bit concerned about your dangerous acts and we will act to insure your neighbors, women and children are personally notified so as they can take protective measures if they should deem you as dangerous as WAR-LINE." [emphasis added]
Someone who took up War-Line's offer to post comments wrote, "well .... after talking to your wonderful anti- porn Nazis, I called the County pros. and was told that the Lion's Den does not have nor has never sold child porn...me and my wife were told that there were several cases pending, you lied ..Now you are going to hell."
"The Uniontown protesters have never said the Lion's Den sells child porn," War-Line's Webmaster responded. "What the protesters have stated, and have actual physical proof, is the Lions Dens sells VIRTUAL child porn. These are porn movies that use porn actresses allegedly 18 years old and dress them up to look like 12 year old girls, complete with pigtails, freckles, Catholic Schoolgirl outfits and directed to act like a young teen girl while sexually subdued by a variety of men... In May, 2008, the United States Supreme Court ruled such "Virtual Child Porn" as illegal."
That, of course, is incorrect. War-Line's Webmaster is obviously referring to the Michael Williams decision, which held that it is illegal to advertise any material, whether actual child porn or not, as child porn. The ruling would not apply to any products Lion's Den sells, since all of its videos, released by major adult manufacturers, carry 2257 statements on their packaging guaranteeing that all of the performers in the videos are adults.
Finally, the site features a page , "10 Myths of the Porn Industry," which contains outright lies like:
- "SOB's [sexually oriented businesses] have a bully nature. A 40 year history shows SOB's always push the envelope of the law and just as often break the local laws. History also shows once a SOB is established they always expand in the area and move to other areas in the community. Anyone living or operating in the area, such as churches, will face extreme intimidation often violence as the SOB works to rid any potential opposition from the area."
- "Prostitution and drug activity immediately increase in the area. This also feeds the growing violence."
- Customers at SOBs "aim their cars as residents, throw sex toys in yards or at residents, including at children... It becomes so dangerous, even police will not actively patrol the area. Local government backs further away, leaving the residents to fend for themselves as best they can."
- "Statistics (police records) show a 77 percent increase in sexual assault within a one mile radius of a SOB."
- "CBS Network was heavily fined for Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction" during broadcast of the Superbowl halftime show." (See story here.)
- "The Supreme Court has also ruled local communities have the right to determine obscenity based on "community standards" and has a simple legal process to allow communities to determine and define obscenity based on these standards." [emphasis added] (HAH!)
- "Statistics (police reports) show over 80 percent of strippers are on drugs, often abused and intimidated to perform stripping."
Yet another page, which features photos of the Uniontown Lion's Den employees, claims, "A recent survey shows 85 percent of rapes and molestation are reenactments of a porn video/DVD. This means every time someone buys a smut video/DVD there is an 85 percent chance that sale will eventually result in a rape or molestation of a child. The employees pictured here care nothing about that. To them, selling porn is money, and they do not care who they harm to get it."
Then, the Webmaster ominously warns , "Someday, of course, they will pay a price for their career choice."
Is War-Line the future of the pro-censorship movement? Only time will tell.
Vote early and often.