Nudity activist will parade ... on sidewalks

Declaring that she is standing up for individual liberty on Independence Day, near-nude rollerblader Jen Moss says she will go topless wearing a G-string and the crown of Lady Liberty at Ashland's Fourth of July parade, but will stay on sidewalks and other areas where she isn't banned.

The Ashland Chamber of Commerce, sponsor of the annual parade, has received overwhelming support for its decision not to approve Moss' application to participate, said chamber spokeswoman Katharine Flanagan.

The chamber's parade permit gives it control of Main Street, Siskiyou Boulevard and the Plaza from curb-to-curb, but not the sidewalk, cross streets and the after-parade festivities on Winburn Way, said Chamber Executive Director Sandra Slattery.

If Moss enters the parade route in any state of nudity that would offend a family audience, she will be asked to leave, said Flanagan. If she doesn't leave, the police will be informed, Flanagan said.

Ashland city ordinances allow nudity anywhere in town, but genitalia must be covered in city parks and the downtown commercial district. Since exposed female breasts are legal everywhere in town, Moss said she plans to go topless on the Fourth of July. Typically, Moss rollerblades or bikes in pasties and a hemp G-string.

Moss said she plans to contact the American Civil Liberties Union in hopes of filing suit against the Ashland chamber for what she sees as discrimination, based on her beliefs about freedom of expression and dress.

"I will sue them to the greatest extent I can," Moss said.

The chamber allows entries with controversial political views. But after consulting its attorney, Allen Drescher, the chamber denied Moss' application because nudity is inappropriate for the parade's "positive, family-friendly theme," Flanagan said.

ACLU Executive Director David Fidanque, reached at the organization's Portland office, said because the chamber receives money from the city, it may be an "actor of the government" and thus required to comply with the Constitution and "wouldn't be able to decide who's in the parade."

City Finance Director Lee Tuneberg said the Ashland chamber receives $255,070 from the city's 7 percent transient tax and that the money goes to the Visitor and Convention Bureau and Economic Development programs.

Fidanque said, "If the connection between the city and the chamber is close enough, then the actions of the chamber could be required to comply with the Constitution (and) the city couldn't get away with that kind of discrimination."

Slattery rejected Fidanque's argument because the chamber puts on the parade entirely with private money — sponsorships by businesses and fees from booths and parade entries.

The ACLU may look at the case if contacted by Moss, but there's isn't enough time before the parade to do anything about it this year, Fidanque said.

State law, he added, doesn't prohibit display of breasts but imposes a misdemeanor for show of genitalia "with the intent of arousing sexual desire. So it's not a crime to be nude if there's no intent."

Moss said she will not enter the street where the parade is passing because she doesn't want to break any laws or be arrested.

"You can show your boobs in Ashland," she said. "It's Independence Day and I will walk where I want that's legal."

Her activities, she added, are a show of support for the environment, freedom of expression and of the production of hemp.

"I'm not indecent," she said. "... I don't deserve to be discriminated against because of my beliefs. I'm not trying to get attention. I'm here standing up for liberty — and most clothing is made in sweatshops with child labor and billions of tons of dyes.

"How dare they judge me? Some people look at me and feel thoughts in their minds that 'she's a slut' or promiscuous. How dare they look at my body and teach their children to be ashamed of their bodies? I love children and would never do anything to hurt them."

Moss moved from Ojai, Calif., to Ashland in May, she said, because of police harassment in Ojai and liberal nudity laws here.

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at

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