Strippers Give Church Ladies a Taste of Their Own Medicine in Ohio
I once worked on a documentary project about adult entertainment venues in the Bible Belt. An interesting experience -- we'd spend all day discussing the issue with right-wing moral scolds and all night hopping from one strip-joint to the next.
This amusing story, via John Cole, is entirely familiar to me -- somewhere in America, similar clashes play out every day.
WARSAW, Ohio - Strip-club owner Tommy George rolled up to the church in his grabber-orange Dodge Challenger, drinking a Mountain Dew at 9 in the morning and smoking a cigarette he had just rolled himself.
Pastor Bill Dunfee stepped out of a tan Nissan Murano, clutching a Bible in one hand and his sermon in the other, a touch of spray holding his perfectly coiffed 'do in place.
Inside the New Beginnings Ministries church, Dunfee's worshippers wore polyester and pearls.
Outside, George's strippers wore bikinis and belly rings.
Both men agree it is classic sinners vs. saints. But George says it is up to America to decide which is which and who is who.
Dunfee says God already has chosen.
"Tom George is a parasite, a man without judgment," Dunfee said. "The word of Jesus Christ says you cannot share territory with the devil."
The battle that has heretofore played out in the parking lot of George's strip club - the Foxhole, a run-down, garage-like building at a Coshocton County crossroads called Newcastle - has shifted 7 miles east to Church Street.
Every weekend for the last four years, Dunfee and members of his ministry have stood watch over George's joint, taking up residence in the right of way with signs, video cameras and bullhorns in hand. They videotape customers' license plates and post them online, and they try to save the souls of anyone who comes and goes.
Now, the dancers have turned the tables, so to speak. Fed up with the tactics of Dunfee and his flock, they say they have finally accepted his constant invitation to come to church.
It's just that they've come wearing see-through shorts and toting Super Soakers.
George said the protest has been a long time coming. He sued the church in federal court several years ago, claiming a violation of his constitutional rights, but he lost. Now, he said, turnabout is fair play.
"When these morons go away, we'll go away," George said. "The great thing about this country is that everyone has a right to believe what they want."
Gina Hughes spent the morning soaking up the sun in her striped bikini, mostly oblivious to the fire and brimstone being preached in the tidy church building.
The 30-year-old married mother of six said she has danced at the Foxhole for a decade and holds the title of "house mom." That means that even though she still dances, she also watches out for the six other women who work there.
She said she makes $2,000 a week.
"These church people say horrible things about us," Hughes said. "They say we're homewreckers and whores. The fact of the matter is, we're working to keep our own homes together, to give our kids what they need."
In my experience, the heroic single mom stripping to feed the kids represents a small minority, but they do exist. That, of course, assumes that only a single mother providing for her kids is a "good" sex worker; the reality, as one woman in Memphis told us, is that men without a lot of education can make $20 an hour working construction jobs, but women with similar education are consigned to crappy service jobs that pay $10 an hour.
Dunfee, the preacher, offered this:
He said he consistently offers the women help, a chance at redemption.
"I tell them, 'I will put a roof over your heads, and your bills will be paid, and your children's bellies will be full,'" he said. Yet they don't come inside.
They don't come inside because they know that's bullshit -- there's a difference between having a "roof over your head" in some sort of church half-way house for "wayward women" and supporting oneself on a real living wage.