Henryetta, OK — The separation of church and state is but a myth in America. If you think that claim is false, try buying alcohol on a Sunday in one of the thousands of towns across America that prohibit it. Or, as this latest and most ridiculous case illustrates, try to dance next to a church in Henryetta, Oklahoma.
One would think that in the Land of the Free, a ban on the innocent act of dancing would be illegal. However, one would be wrong. Dancing bans, legal or religious prohibitions against dancing, have been applied at various times in various jurisdictions across the country — and Oklahoma is no exception.
On February 14th, the town of Henryetta had an exquisite Valentine's day dance planned that would have taken place at Rosie LaVon's Marketplace.
As KTUL reported, Robbie Kinney said she had family who wanted to go to the dance, but there was just one problem.
"The ordinance says no dancing allowed. It's illegal," said Kinney.
Rosie LaVon's Marketplace just so happens to be located 300 feet from a nearby church. And, according to the town's morality ordinance that prohibits dancing, they need to be at least 201 feet further away because dancing within 500 feet of a church is a punishable offense.
What's even more asinine is the fact that this law has never had to be enforced, but because "it's the law," the town canceled the dance anyway.
"It's never been enforced my entire life," Mayor Jennifer Clason told KTUL. "But I'd never looked at it because it never came up."
As the Free Thought Project constantly points out, just because something is illegal, that doesn't make it wrong. Legality ≠ morality.
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Instead of applying this discretion to the asinine law that bans moving your body around to music within 500 feet of a church, city officials did their civic duty and upheld it.
“Laws are laws, and we’re going to abide by them,” Kinney told KTUL. “We can’t pick and choose what laws we uphold.”
The city attorney showed this blind dedication to the arbitrary and insane law — in spite of the Police Chief intelligently using his discretion and claiming he had no intention of enforcing it.
"It's one of those ordinances that was passed long before I ever came, and we have no interest in enforcing it," said Police Chief Steve Norman.
After the debate was pushed into the public arena this week, Clason said the city will consider abolishing the law during their February 22 meeting. However, Valentine's Day will have long passed by then.
If you think this is an isolated case, think again. Last year, the Free Thought Project reported on another case in which an entire concert was canceled because dancing in a bar is illegal in Mississippi.
The Mississippi Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) board was met with backlash from across the country last year after shutting down a rap concert for anticipated 'twerking.'
Big Freedia, of New Orleans, Louisiana, and star of the reality TV show, "Big Freedia: Queen of Bounce," had her show cancelled in Mississippi last February after an officer from the ABC threatened to shut down, not only the concert, but the entire venue where it would be held, for a year.
Also, just this week, the Free Thought Project reported on the story of a man who was brutally attacked and tasered by police for dancing at a bus stop. The entire disgraceful act was captured on video.
While this case may seem funny on the surface, it illustrates the dangerous nature of blind obedience to the state — no matter how arbitrary or immoral. Just as police continue to kidnap, cage, and kill people for possessing cannabis, an amazingly beneficial plant, lawmakers and their enforcers proceed without question — after all, it's the law.