A convent of nuns in a Chicago suburb has taken issue with a neighboring strip club, citing numerous issues. The strongest argument is a violation of Illinois zoning laws requiring adult entertainment facilities to be located more than 1,000 feet away from places of worship and schools. However, the law may be unconstitutional according to an attorney for Stone Park village, which was named as a defendant in the lawsuit along with Club Allure. The other complaints are public violence, public drunkenness, and litter, including discarded alcohol and contraceptive containers. The club contends the?claims of the lawsuit aren’t reflected in police reports and are untrue.
There are also houses in the same area, and three residents have joined the Missionary Sisters of St. Charles Borromeo Scalabrinians in their suit. The convent, which consists of three chapels and houses 20 women, feels invaded by the club, according to the Associated Press:
The sisters have seen “public violence, drunkenness and litter, including . empty whiskey and beer bottles, discarded contraceptive packages and products and even used condoms,” according to the lawsuit, which also mentions the “pulsating and rhythmic staccato-beat noise and flashing neon and or strobe lights” that disturb the nuns.
“Our sisters’ sacred space has been invaded,” Sister Noemia Silva told the Chicago Sun-Times. “At night now they hear the music when they’re praying. That’s uncalled for.”
Club representatives disagree.?Robert Itzkow, who is an attorney for the club and previous owner, argues that the club has invested a large quantity of money in soundproofing, and keeps deliveries and lighting to the front specifically to avoid bothering neighbors at night. There is also a recycling dump and container yard nearby, and the area is zoned for adult entertainment. “This is an ideological dispute,” Itzkow says, according to the?Chicago Tribune. He also makes the point that by filling empty warehouses and creating tax revenue, the club has worked to improve the area, as well as provide jobs. He claims the convent is suing because they morally disagree with the business. The nuns don’t disagree; it is about morals, they say, but also about the law.
Interestingly, this isn’t the first time the club has been involved in a legal battle. Although the lawsuit filed by the convent names both the club and Stone Park as defendants, in a previous suit, the club was the plaintiff. That’s because the village originally tried to block the club, but owners sued. Now, an attorney for Stone Park has stated that the state law blocking the club may actually be unconstitutional on First Amendment grounds. Courts have generally ruled that municipalities cannot have blanket bans on strip clubs, and the club argued that the 1,000-foot buffer is too broad, amounting to a blanket ban in Stone Park. In the end, the village capitulated, settling the suit by allowing the club’s existence.
The convent is being represented by Peter Breen of the Thomas More Society, which is a nonprofit law firm that handles many religious cases. Club Allure’s attorney will be filing a counter suit, and expects the lawsuit on behalf of the convent to be dismissed.
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