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Friday | June 20, 2003

In the Irony Department

Florida Congressman Mark Foley is extremely concerned about a nude summer camp for kids.

The childless Foley, who recently sought to block all discussion of his sex life, which many gay activists and Republican opponents say is homosexual, is disturbed by naked kids

Nude summer youth camps alarm lawmaker

"What's wrong with your kids going to Boy Scouts, Campfire Girls or sports camps?" Foley, the West Palm Beach Republican, said Wednesday from Washington. "It's beyond the pale that this is a normal way to bring up a 14-year-old child."

The adult nudists who run the camps say they teach teenagers healthy lessons about accepting their sometimes awkward adolescent bodies. Aside from the Pasco camp, others are held in Virginia and Arizona.

Erich Schuttauf, executive director of the nude association, called Lake Como's camp, which attracted about 25 young nudists from June 5 to 13, "good old-fashioned naked fun."

"We have always been about a wholesome family-oriented environment suitable for people of all ages," Schuttauf said from his Kissimmee office.

Oddly enough, the kids and their parents seem to have been exposed to other camping environments.

Old Enough to Make a Lanyard, and to Do It Nude


Here at the Youth Leadership Camp run by the American Association for Nude Recreation, the dress code for regular volleyball — and for the pudding toss, mini-golf and campfire sing-alongs — is the same as it is for skinny dipping.

Basking in what nudist organizations say is a growing interest in nude recreation, the association has begun a nationwide expansion of summer camps for nudists age 11 to 18. The first began here 10 years ago, in a county north of Tampa known for its concentration of nudist resorts. In 2000, the association opened its second camp in Arizona.

A third is to open outside Richmond, Va., this month, and organizers in Texas are planning a fourth camp there for the summer of 2005.

Naked summer camp might strike non-nudists as illegal or prurient, or like striking a match to the gasoline of adolescent hormones.

Anti-nudity statutes in Florida and other states, however, say that nudity on private property is perfectly legal, even among minors, as long as there is no lewdness. And camp rules, drawn up by campers themselves a few years ago, guard against that. "Do not allow nudity and lust to mingle," they state. "No improper touch. Nudity must not be humiliating, degrading or promote ridicule." Even the occasional clothing, worn in the camp's shuttle van, must not be "sexually alluring."

Nude tourism has grown to a $400 million business this year from a $120 million business in 1992, reports the nudist association, with travel agencies noting a surge in nude cruises and, in May, the first nude charter flight. The association itself is growing, with 30 new clubs, for a total of 267, in the last two years.

There are still few places, however, for teenagers.

"I've spent my life around nudist resorts; this is the first time I've ever been around kids my own age," said Halie, who had been named Camper of the Day the previous night for participating fully despite a foot swollen by a bee sting. "It's either 45 and over or 10 and under."

The campers, many of them alumni of church or scout camps, say they like this better, but not for the reasons most people might expect

Congressman Foley, who cannot answer a simple question about his sex life is now going to judge how people raise their kids.

We’re not, after all, talking about a deeply closeted married man who is having secretive homosexual sex in a public rest room. We’re actually not talking about sex at all, at least not as in the case of Bill and Monica. We’re talking about identity–how one defines oneself and is known to family and friends. We’re talking about someone who is 48 years old, unmarried and is, according to the New Times, quite comfortably known to be gay to many people in politics on both the right and left in Florida, and whose own boyfriend has been out with him in public, as described by the gay military hero Tracy Thorne


Foley’s strategy since then has been to try to ensure that his sexual orientation never becomes a story again. He began voting in favor of gay rights, even as he lurched to the right on most other issues in the past two years, supporting the president, whose brother Jeb he will need if he wants that GOP nomination for the Senate.

So exactly who is Mark Foley to judge the morals of other people when he cannot admit that he's a gay man in a long-term relationship. His refusal to answer that simple question and then turn it into a smear against the Democratic Party makes him a poor judge of character.

His simple argument is that nude teenagers may have sex. Well, clothed teenagers seem to have the sex thing down fine. So do child molesters. The Catholic Church certainly never encouraged nudity in the pulpit or church house, did they? You don't have to agree with nudism as a lifestyle to find Foley's crusade hypocritical at the very least.

As a gay man, he couldn't be a scoutmaster, yet he thinks that organization, one I and I'll assume many of the readers here either belonged to or have children in, is a more moral one than a nudist camp? Nudity and sex are two different things, at least to most people.

Mark Foley is perfectly capable of obscuring his sex life for his political career. Now, however, to get into the good graces of the right, who don't like gays and would refuse to support him because of that, he wants to dictate his brand to morality to people perfectly capable of raising their children. As long as the camps are law abiding and no children are harmed there, the only issue is in Congressman Foley's mind.

Personally, it's not something I would do, or introduce children to, but as long as the kids feel comfortable, and many seem to enjoy the experience in the company of their parents, it's not my place to judge.

What ever happened to the conservativism which believed that people could make their own judgments about their own moral conduct? I guess that died with Barry Goldwater and we now have the Cross and Sword nanny state, where religious coersion will now decide how people live, regardless of their opinions. Given Foley's trouble with his sex life, he might want to mind his own business as long as the law is followed.

Steve Gilliard

Posted June 20, 2003 10:28 AM | Comments (57)


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