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City orders 120-day ban on licensing adult stores

Christian school throng demands council action

Before a packed house of high school students and parents, the Medford City Council ordered a 120-day moratorium Thursday night on issuing business licenses to adult stores.

Medford City Councilman Curt Bennett proposed the moratorium, saying it would give the City Council some breathing room to review ways to stop these stores from locating in Medford.

It could be a Christian holiday, Bennett said. A chance to sort through the ordinances and find out what legally we can do about adult businesses.

Medford City Attorney Gene Hart said before the vote that he wasn't sure the moratorium could be enforced.

Even so, the council voted 7-0 to approve the moratorium. Council President Rob Patridge was absent.

After the approval, the crowd -- about 70 Cascade Christian High School students and several of their parents and teachers -- roared with approval and a standing ovation.

The moratorium comes just weeks after Castle Superstores -- an Arizona-based sex-shop chain -- moved into a former grocery store on Progress Drive in Medford.

Council members learned about the store after the business obtained a license. The store has been open since Labor Day.

The council held a public hearing two weeks ago to listen to testimony from people who were upset that a business like Castle Superstores could move into town.

The council was looking at several options, including adopting a nuisance ordinance and adopting an ordinance to allow the council to take away business licenses.

Although the sex shop wasn't on the agenda on Thursday night, the Cascade Christian students appeared en masse.

Seven students spoke, challenging council members to stand up against the sex shop.

Ryan Hawk, 17, of Central Point, who is the associated student body president of Cascade Christian, said the school's government teacher -- Pastor Dan Ferrell -- told the school about the meeting and asked for volunteers to speak to the council. He said nearly all of the students were from his high school.

Josh Nicholson, 18, of Medford, another Cascade student, condemned the Castle Superstore for the products it sells.

I am here for all Christian teenagers and all Christian adults to say that Castle porno shop is wrong, he said. It promotes sex outside of marriage.

Cascade student Lindy Johnston, 17, urged the council to take a stand, saying she wanted leaders who could protect the community.

I was sexually abused, she said. And the guy who did it to me was big-time into pornography.

About eight parents and teachers also spoke -- several quoting Bible verses.

Ferrell said he wasn't sure the council was united against the sex shop. He said he knew the council was worried about possible lawsuits.

Perhaps the way to go is to ban the store and let them sue, Ferrell said.

If a lawsuit were filed against the city, the people in the chamber would support the council, Ferrell said. If the council didn't take a stand against Castle, Ferrell said the people in the chamber would vote them out.

After the comments from the students and adults, Bennett proposed the moratorium, which was seconded by Councilman Matt Hart.

Councilwoman Linda Casey said she had heard that Castle Superstores is trying to get into eight or nine communities in the Pacific Northwest. She said the council should take a stand in support of other communities that get these businesses.

Earlier in the day, City Attorney Hart had said that a moratorium could be considered prior restraint under the First Amendment to the Constitution. Prior restraint means to prohibit or hamper something that is ordinarily protected by the First Amendment before a court has ruled that it is not protected.

At a break in the meeting, Hart said he didn't know how the city would defend a moratorium.

Well, I really can't answer that, Hart said. We'll have to discuss it as a staff and find out how we'll approach it.

Bennett said he didn't know if any adult businesses would even try to get a license in Medford in the next four months.

Sometimes the ordinance is enough of a road block that a business may not even try to move here, he said. They might not want to fight it.