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Strip Clubs, Booze and the First Amendment, According to the 4th Circuit

from – Strip clubs in Virginia can sell beer and wine, but not mixed alcoholic beverages. Does that seem fair to you? It does to the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, which decided the law “passes constitutional muster” as a moderate, and permissible restriction of the club owners’ First Amendment free speech rights.

What do strip clubs have to do with freedom of speech? Well, as the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the 1981 case of Schad v. Borough of Mount Ephraim, that while not exactly a form of political speech, “nude dancing is not without its First Amendment protection from official regulation.”

But in the case of Virginia’s law, the 4th Circuit Court applied the “standard of intermediate scrutiny applicable to policies aimed at the harmful secondary effects of sexually oriented entertainment,” to find that, “The public interest served by the policy is substantial, the restriction on the clubs mild and the burden on First Amendment values slight.”

Specifically, the court rule that rather than attempting to suppress the content of the entertainment, Virginia’s law addressed the contribution of alcohol to nude dancing’s potentially harmful secondary effects including; “higher crime rates, lower property values, and unwanted interactions between patrons and entertainers such as public sexual conduct, sexual assault, and prostitution.”

About the First Amendment: The U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment ensures Americans the five basic freedoms: freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom to assemble and freedom to petition the government to remedy (“redress”) grievances. Sadly, a McCormick Tribune Foundation survey conducted in 2006 revealed that while 52 percent of Americans can name at least two characters of the Simpsons TV cartoon family, only 28 percent are able to name more than one of the five fundamental freedoms granted to them by the First Amendment.


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