Senate Bill 16 Controversy Continues

COLUMBUS, Oh. - An attorney representing Ohio-based religious right organization Citizens for Community Values has sent a cease-and-desist letter to the Buckeye Association of Club Executives (BACE), ordering the adult entertainment trade group to stop using the name "Citizens for Community Standards" in its fight against the anti-adult entertainment Senate Bill 16.

BACE formed Citizens for Community Standards in June as a political action committee to collect signatures needed to block the bill from taking effect in September. The committee gathered 1,000 signatures from registered voters opposing the legislation, and is now drumming up additional support to strike down the legislation.

"Your use of 'Citizens for Community Standards' in your campaign to oppose the implementation [sic] Senate Bill 16 infringes CCV's trade name and its trademark rights," wrote attorney Charles M. Allen in his letter to CCS treasurer Julie Heffelfinger. "Further, it is apparent that your mark was selected with the intention of creating confusion and misleading voters."

CCV's vice president of public policy David Miller accused BACE of attempting to "tie into the name and good reputation of CCV and thereby confuse the public."

"These sex businesses know that the public does not support them," said Miller, "and therefore are left with no other option but to deceive and mislead the voters of Ohio."

However, religious conservatives themselves have a long history of using deceptive names for organizations in an attempt to trick the unwary. Fundamentalist evangelist Pat Robertson chose the name for his decade-old "American Center for Law & Justice" because its initials, ACLJ, might be confused with the American Civil Liberties Union's acronym ACLU. The liberal Center for American Progress must consistently distinguish itself from the conservative Progress for America organization. None of these uses is illegal, though, since none violates its counterpart's copyright or trademark ... as is the case with Citizens for Community Standards.

"Senate Bill 16 is unconstitutional and unnecessary,'' said BACE spokeswoman Sandy Theis."Even though the law is not scheduled to take effect until Sept. 4, it's already hurting the clubs and the dancers who work there. Customers think it's gone into effect so they are afraid to patronize Ohio's adult cabarets.''

A BACE press release points out that "the new law was promoted by Citizens for Community Values, a Cincinnati-based organization headed by self-described pornography addict Phil Burress. The law makes it a crime for customers or club employees to touch nude or semi-nude entertainers or their clothing -- even if the touching is as innocent as a hand shake or a pat on the back."

A copy of the letter is available here.