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Think Out Loud

Public Nudity

Pete Springer/OPB

Ashland has become the latest Oregon city to pass a public nudity ban. It joins other cities like Happy Valley, Portland and Eugene in restricting where people can be naked. Portland’s ban was challenged but upheld by the Oregon Court of Appeals, but the court also found that nudity as a form of protest could be protected.

Case in point: In 2008, Michael “Bobby” Hammond was riding a bicycle nude in Portland as part of the the World Naked Bike Ride, a protest against car culture and oil dependence. Hammond was first charged with indecent exposure but the judge dropped the charges saying his behavior was clearly protected by the Oregon Constitution under freedom of expression. Oregon has greater protections of free speech and expression even than the First Amendment.

Civil libertarians have raised concerns that the Ashland ban on public nudity — unlike the partial ban it passed in 2004 — may be too restrictive and may not pass Oregon Constitutional muster. Some also consider it a kind of slippery slope in terms of restricting freedom of expression. If that form of expression can be banned, what’s next?

Does your city have a nudity ban? Who does it protect and from what? Have you ever protested in the nude? Is nudity ever appropriate in a public setting? How is nudity different than other forms of expression? Does it deserve the same protection as other forms of speech?


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