Religious Law

Swingers club claims it is a church in zoning fight

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A swingers group relocating to suburban Nashville plans to change its name from The Social Club to the United Fellowship Center—part of a strategy to rebrand itself as a church.

The club’s lawyer, Larry Roberts, tells the Washington Post he came up with the idea of changing the club to a church to afford religious protections to the group, which is still operating in Nashville pending resolution of legal disputes.

The club encountered neighborhood opposition after buying a building across from a Christian school in Madison, north of Nashville. The county zoning was changed to bar private clubs on the property, and Tennessee followed with a law barring sex clubs from operating within 1,000 feet of a school.

“They can sue us and say they want an injunction to stop us from operating, and we can say we have some tenets of the church sort of like the Ten Commandments,” Roberts told the Post.

“Do not steal. Do not lie. Do not cheat. Do not commit any act that will be harmful to others. Do not commit adultery without the knowledge and consent of your spouse. … That one’s a little bit different.”

Georgetown University law professor Ira “Chip” Lupu suggested another legal tack in an interview with the Post. He cites a 2013 federal opinion striking down Utah’s ban on cohabitation. Borrowing the argument from that case, the club could argue a violation of its sexual privacy.

“I think they could make a pretty good case,” Lupu said.

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