Monday, June 21, 2004

The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia said litigation is likely against a new state law that makes it illegal for teens to attend a nudist camp without their parents or guardians.

An ACLU legal director called the legislation a “knee-jerk reaction” against a legal lifestyle.

“There was no good reason to enact this law, and there is no reason to believe that these camps are harmful to children in any way,” said Rebecca Glenberg, legal director of the Richmond-based ACLU of Virginia.

Earlier this year, the General Assembly overwhelmingly passed the law that says teens can only attend a nudist camp if a parent, grandparent or legal guardian is present. The law goes into effect July 1, unless legal action is taken.

Miss Glenberg said “litigation is likely” against the law, which targets Camp White Tail in Ivor, a city in southeastern Virginia. Camp White Tail runs an annual week-long nudist camp for nearly 50 teens and preteens.

Bob Roche, the camp’s manager, said he is working with the ACLU and will file an injunction in the coming weeks. The ACLU would not confirm this.

Mr. Roche said that unless the law is repealed, it will affect this year’s camp, which is to be held the last week of July.

“There’s a whole bunch of kids that won’t be able to come without their parents,” Mr. Roche said. “We want to overturn this extremely bad law that is unconstitutional, and if we have to, we will sue for money.”

Mr. Roche said the law discriminates against nude teens. “It singles them out — a church group that lets students take nude showers doesn’t need parents there. A youth hockey camp or summer camp doesn’t need their parents,” he said.

Miss Glenberg agreed.

“There’s absolutely nothing unlawful or wrong about not wearing clothes, as long as you are not in public, where other people might be offended,” she said. “By denying children the opportunity to go to this summer camp and by denying parents the right to choose where to send their children during the summer, the state is trampling on their right to privacy and the rights of parents to direct the upbringing of their children.”

Mr. Roche said he expects participation in the camp to decline because many parents won’t be able to take time off from work to attend the camp with their children.

Paul Reagan, a spokesman for Gov. Mark Warner, said the administration is “very confident” the law will withstand any legal challenge.

The ACLU had lobbied for Mr. Warner, a Democrat, to veto the bill.

Delegate John S. “Jack” Reid, Henrico County Republican, sponsored the bill in response to constituent complaints about Camp White Tail’s special summer nudist camp for juveniles ages 11 to 17.

The law states that the Board of Health shall not issue a license to any camp that runs a nudist camp for juveniles when a parent, grandparent or legal guardian is not also registered for or present with the juvenile in the same camp.

Mr. Reid said he expects Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore, a Republican, will defend against a lawsuit, and said the law is “absolutely constitutional.”

“I don’t think the Constitution allows you to do anything you want to earn a living,” Mr. Reid said. “There are certain things society can say they feel is acceptable or unacceptable, and the overwhelming reaction in the General Assembly is that legislators didn’t want this camp for children taking place in Virginia. … We’ll let the courts decide.”

Delegate Richard H. Black, Loudoun County Republican, was the only co-patron of the bill. He said the law will be upheld in Virginia courts and said the camp is “bizarre.”

“There are laws against child pornography — and if you can’t put it in a picture, I don’t understand why you could put it at an outdoors camp,” he said. “I cannot imagine what type of parent would send their teenage child off to a nudist camp.”

Delegates Charles “Bill” Carrico, Independence Republican, and Terrie L. Suit, Virginia Beach Republican, were the only lawmakers to vote against the bill.

A spokesman for Mr. Carrico, who is on vacation, said the delegate didn’t feel the legislation went far enough.

“He wanted to ban juveniles from nudist camps, period,” said spokesman Stuart Higley.

Mrs. Suit voted against the governor’s amendment to the bill because she preferred the original version of the bill. Mr. Warner’s amendment required that the parent be present with the teen instead of just accompanying the teen to the camp. The amendment passed.

There are just a handful of states with nudist camps for juveniles, including Arizona and Florida.

Mr. Roche said the children are “at peace” with their nudity, and that the camp would teach them social interaction skills. At the camp, the juveniles do normal activities, including playing volleyball and swimming.

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