Nuns, strippers and the never-boring Godbeat

Put another one in the “Godbeat sure ain’t boring” file.

I first read about the dispute between a group of Chicago-area nuns and a neighboring strip club in the Chicago Tribune:

A group of nuns is suing to shut down a strip club next to their convent in Stone Park that the sisters say keeps them awake at night.

The Missionary Sisters of St. Charles Borromeo Scalabrinians say in the suit that Club Allure has ruined their peace with blinking neon lights and loud thumping music. The nuns say they have witnessed drunken fights and found condoms littering the area.

The suit, filed against the club and the village of Stone Park, states that the club violates a state law against operating adult entertainment within 1,000 feet of a school or place of worship. The club is also near houses, and three neighbors have joined the suit.

“I think most people would find that offensive, to put a strip club next to a home for sisters,” said Peter Breen, attorney for the Thomas More Society, a nonprofit law firm that filed the suit on behalf of the nuns.

The Tribune offers a straightforward, non-cheeky account of the conflict, highlighting the nuns’ concerns, the tricky legal issues involved and the strip club’s response — all in less than 450 words.

The paper even provides a link to the lawsuit.

All three sources quoted — one each on behalf of the nuns, the municipality and the strip club — are attorneys. While that is entirely proper and journalistically sound, I found myself wishing I could hear directly from a nun. Or even a stripper.

The Chicago Sun-Times did quote a nun (although I’d rank its overall story below the quality of the Tribune’s):

Sister Noemia Silva, who resides at the convent, said she’s “appalled” that Stone Park rezoned the property to allow the strip club to open.

“Our sisters’ sacred space has been invaded,” she said. “At night now they hear the music when they’re praying. That’s uncalled for.

“You look at the children who go to school in the area, they have to pass thhough here in front of the convent and there’s whiskey bottles and what have you broken.”

And in a follow-up out today, The Associated Press reports that the nuns plan to march on the strip club:

STONE PARK, Ill. — A group of nuns seeking to force a strip club next door to their convent to close is poised to march on the establishment to show what anyone who went to Catholic school already knows: They mean business.

“Our sisters are trying to pray, and you just hear the thump, thump, thump” of loud music coming from the strip club, said Sister Noemia Silva of the Sisters of St. Charles. Silva said nearly two dozen nuns and others planned to march Wednesday afternoon on nearby Club Allure Chicago.

Silva and the convent’s attorney said the march will show the public just how close the club is and that any argument the club might make claiming it is not disrupting their way of life is ridiculous.

“I go into the retired sisters’ chapel and see these little elderly sisters hunched over praying turn around and you can literally see the rear of this strip club,” said Peter Breen, the attorney. “This is an insult to them.”

Beyond the zoning laws involved, an earlier AP rewrite of media reports on the lawsuit hits at a potential religious liberty question:

While the Bible says, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” the manager of the club said the nuns are not being very neighborly.

“We spent an awful lot of money to make sure that this kind of thing would not occur,” Club Allure manager Robert Itzkow told WMAQ-TV. “The whole thing is just a question of ‘we don’t like you; you don’t conform to our religious beliefs.’”

 Stay tuned.

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About Bobby Ross Jr.

Bobby Ross Jr. is an award-winning reporter and editor with a quarter-century of professional experience. A former religion editor for The Oklahoman and religion writer for The Associated Press, Ross serves as chief correspondent for the The Christian Chronicle. He has reported from 47 states and 11 countries and was honored as the Religion Newswriters Association's 2013 Magazine Reporter of the Year.

  • http://getreligion.org/ Bobby Ross Jr.
  • Darren Blair

    If the music can be heard outside the building, then I’m wondering if there isn’t a history of noise complaints against the club.

    If the music can be heard outside of the building, then that’s a strike against them. If there’s already a history of noise complaints, then the club might well not have any sort of legal footing.

    IMHO, that’s something the articles should have looked at.

    • http://getreligion.org/ Bobby Ross Jr.

      Thanks for your comment, Darren.

      • Darren Blair

        Not a problem.

        I wonder if the news groups that are reporting on this are too caught up in the whole “nuns vs. strippers” hype to actually check up on this, though.

  • http://getreligion.org/ Bobby Ross Jr.
  • http://ephesians4-15.blogspot.ca/ Randy Gritter

    I wonder if they should be complaining. Maybe praying for the strippers would be better. Maybe finding a way to invite them to talk with the nuns. Invite them for tea! Don’t invite the media. Just love your neighbor.

    • FW Ken

      I’m thinking they probably work opposite shifts.


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