Sullivan County Bristol Tennessee Strip Bar Wars
When public officials prostitute their public office to appease religious fanatics or simply wipe out a legal business because their friends can't take the competition, it's called corruption. But while these crooks spend their time running a religious crusade from public office, jobs and our young people leave in droves while civil rights are trampled at every turn. In this community, one can't even buy a decent job. Local government here is like a brothel without the sex!
Government can not prohibit freedom of speech, peaceful assembly, right to privacy, favor any religious group, etc. are the core of our Bill of Rights and are guaranteed to every citizen. But Christian fundamentalists claim those laws applies only to the federal government; thus they claim the law does not apply to state and local government. (Or themselves.) This was the very same argument they used to support segregation a few years ago!
"I think it puts people on warning they can't say or do anything they please...(in Sullivan County), proclaims county commissioner Mike "Boss Hogg" Gonce. "Hopefully, people will be more guarded with what they say." This is the same lunatic who proclaimed several months earlier, "Sullivan County doesn't lay down for atheists." "Loflin has clearly criticized commissioners" says Sullivan County Attorney Dan Street, who implied anyone who dared to question county officials could be hauled into court. But this is East Tennessee, not Iran or Argentina. What happened to the Bill of rights? What led to all of this?
When Carletta Sims, head of the Atheists of TN requested equal treatment in a controversial school program known as Release Time, she launched what is known as The Sullivan County Religious Wars. This program allowed children to leave school during the school day for religious instruction. Mrs. Sims, along with World Union of Deists wanted to teach atheism and deism on an equal basis. The school board was never going to allow this and fearful of the ACLU, threw out the whole program.
A few days later Commissioner Gonce proclaimed "Sullivan County doesn't lay down for atheists" and passed the Ten Commandments Plaque Resolution to show that the Jerry Falwell fundamentalists only are welcome in Sullivan County. When Lewis Loflin of the local chapter of the World Union of Deists requested equal access to hang a plaque, he was threatened with a lawsuit. So alarmed was the local press by this totally irrational behavior that the Kingsport Times-News called on the county to Rescind the Ten Commandments Resolution.
As of July 2000 nobody has been able to gain equal access to hang a plaque in Sullivan County. Gary Melvin of the Sullivan County Libertarian Party is demanding to know why his plaque application has not been taken up. According to news report the Treaty of Tripoli Plaque has been refused from the World Union of Deists because of county residency. Oddly, that didn't apply to the Sullivan Baptist Association which is not a resident either.
The Sullivan County Adult Entertainment Commission was the creation of a local government running a religious crusade from public office. "We will put them out of business" is the words of Ron Ramsey a local politician. The county acknowledged the businesses were in fact legal, so they decided to regulate them into closing their doors.
First, they refused to issue a sign permit until the Show Palace got a lawyer and threatened legal action. They finally issued the permit, but the owner got stuck with legal fees. This nonsense doesn't stop with strip bars either. Bristol, TN has a sign ordinance that prohibits signs in the front yards of residential areas. It is so strict in fact that even those who run for political office can only leave them out for a short time.
In fact, when I was a resident of Bristol, TN and tried to hang a sign for my small business, the city police came to my house and told me to remove my 2' by 2' sign or face a fine from the city. Go to Bristol, TN today and take a look at all of the signs in front yards with the Ten Commandments on them.
Then they denied the Show Palace a beer license, and tried to revoke the license held by Bottoms Up. They claimed it was for "public safety" to keep drunks off the road which is total nonsense. Bristol is the home of Bristol Motor Speedway which draws over 100,000 race fans several times a year. Yet the cities of Bristol VA/TN and Sullivan County bring in train loads of beer for race fans to "selected businesses" which fills our streets with thousands of drunken drivers whom police can't control.
If one thinks that getting a business license, paying their taxes, and following the law will protect them from corrupt public officials? Think again. In June 2000, Bristol, TN, at the demand of Bristol Motor Speedway passed an ordinance outlawing anyone from selling race tickets above the price set by BMS. Known as the "Bristol Scalping Law," city officials claimed it was unsafe to sell tickets on the Volunteer Parkway.
Isn't it odd that the United Way of Bristol panhandles on the same Volunteer Parkway, in the same places, and using the same methods, but are considered "safe?" Nearby Wytheville, VA passed what is called "The Peddler Ordinance" outlawing anyone from selling anything within 1000 feet of "established business." Like the Bristol, TN law, it was also designed to wipe out the competition of wealthy business owners.
One of the more asinine regulations put out by Falwell's zombies in local government is all exotic dancers must be licensed and have their names, addresses, and phone numbers made public. They claimed this wasn't meant to harass or put the girls in danger, but simply to protect the public from "corruption." Perhaps they should look into "corruption" in county government.
The Bottoms Up of Bristol TN and the Show Palace have taken Sullivan County to court. They lost in the TN Court of Appeals and the case will be going before the TN Supreme Court A similar case was struck down against a Nashville ordinance and is cause for concern for Jerry Falwell and his friends. Let's hope the courts restore the Rule of Law and ends the "one rule for you, another for the chosen" legal system in Southern Appalachia.
The Bristol Race Police will bust you for selling a race ticket. BMS produces few decent jobs, but drives up the cost of everything while Bristol, Tennessee brown-noses its owners at every opportunity. Last year race fans complained about some Bristol area merchants ripping off the public. The police are out in force but it isn't the crooks they're after and we still maintain our proud tradition of "I love minimum wage."
Update for 2008: all appeals have failed and the local laws have been upheld. There are no strip bars in Sullivan County.
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