Village Fights 'Porno Palace' With Prayer Vigil

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By Jeff Schapiro, Christian Post Reporter
March 20, 2012|10:10 pm

The construction of a massive adult entertainment facility called "Get It" is a big cause for concern in the small village of Stone Park, Ill.

The 18,000-square-foot facility – which the owner says is not a strip club but rather a cabaret with nudity – is being built just a few feet away from a convent in nearby Melrose Park. Unhappy locals are now banding together in order to get rid of the cabaret and take their community in a new direction, and they are doing so through prayer.

Rudy Lopez is one of the organizers of the prayer march and candlelight vigil that will take place Thursday evening, which is being led by a new community group, United for a Better Stone Park (or "Vecinos Unidos Por Un Mejor Stone Park" for the prominent Latin community that also lives there).

Lopez, who is a professional organizer and usually works on immigration reform issues, was asked by some Stone Park residents to speak with the Sisters at St. Charles Borromeo about the adult entertainment business that is being built next door.

"As I got more involved, I got more attached to the issue and to the community and to the people there," said Lopez in an interview with The Christian Post on Tuesday.

There are already six "adult-themed" establishments in the small town of about 5,000 people, not counting the bars, Lopez says. The upcoming prayer vigil isn't just about Get It's construction, he says, it's about taking the town back and getting it started in a new direction.

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"The purpose of the vigil is to show the unity and solidarity in the community behind a set of values ... a wanting to send a clear statement of the kind of community that they want Stone Park to be. They don't want it to be a place that promotes the values and problems that come with a strip club. They want a different type of community, and they're coming together to take a stand," he said.

Peter Breen is the executive director and legal counsel for the Thomas More Society, a Chicago-based legal organization that has offered to provide the village free legal help if they should choose to fight against the completion of the cabaret. Breen describes the $3 million facility as a "porno palace" and "a Chuck-E-Cheese for perverts."

"We offered free legal help because we'd like to see Stone Park come around and stand with its citizens, stand with the nuns to oppose the ... strip joint," Breen told CP.

The village has already been sued by the club's developer once. The lawsuit was filed after city officials, and those affiliated with them, allegedly tried to shake the developer down for cash and part ownership of the club.

Village officials reportedly said it would have cost about half a million dollars to fight the development of Get It, so it conceded to the developer. The lawsuit was settled, and as part of the settlement the village revoked a local "buffer" law that would have required the facility to be built at least 1,000-feet away from the convent.

But Breen says the village should have kept and enforced the local buffer laws.

"Those laws are perfectly valid and constitutional. There was no reason to repeal those laws or to agree to appeal those laws as part of the settlement of the prior lawsuit," said Breen.

He also says there is a state buffer law that should have essentially taken effect when the village decided not to enforce its own restrictions. The state law says "it is prohibited to locate, construct, or operate a new adult entertainment facility within one mile of the property boundaries of any ... place of religious worship."

Currently, Get It is being built within just a few feet of the wall that overlooks the convent's vegetable garden. Controversially, it is also believed that the facility's developer wants to officially open for business during Holy Week, the week leading up to Easter Sunday.

"You have to assume that the owner of this facility is looking for the publicity of opening his porno palace during Holy Week. You don't do that by accident," said Breen.

Village officials have not agreed to take the Thomas More Society up on their offer for free counsel yet, but Breen says they are reviewing the information he provided them during a Monday afternoon meeting.

"We presented some of our legal concerns to the village, and they did make a commitment to look at those," he said.

Lopez says he hopes between 400 and 500 people will participate in Thursday's vigil, and the procession will begin at the convent. He says the Missionary Sisters of St. Charles Borromeo are glad to have the community's support.

"They see it as a real blessing," he noted. "Certainly this is something that began with them ... However, it's really blossomed to a broader community issue."

 

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