Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Another Vital Government Service: Harassing Nudists

Today we have more evidence of the state's Washington Monument Syndrome in action: even though the state's budget is so tight that we had to close 70 state parks back in May, the Parks Department still has enough money to harass nude sunbathers on the beaches near San Onofre.

In a classic example of a conflict that private property could resolve painlessly, rangers at San Onofre State Park have been trying for two years to enforce a ban on nude sunbathing at the Park's Trail 6, a stretch of beach frequented by nudists for decades. As a result, the nudists have tried to find other places in the park to strut their stuff, and have begun venturing onto beaches controlled by the Camp Pendleton Marine base. And they report that the park rangers are starting to devote considerable attention to them, spying on them and following them onto federal land. According to one San Clemente resident, "You have rangers hiding within rocks, in trees, with cameras trying to take pictures. This is more than childish. This is harassment." The so-called "naturists" also claim the Park is recruiting military officials to help them; one claims to have been approached by a Marine who seized his camera and deleted video of the encounter. They also claim the rangers are overstepping their jurisdiction by spending a great deal of time bothering nudists on federal land. The superintendent in charge of San Onofre points to the absence of citations for lewd behavior as a sign of the ban's success; a lawyer representing the nudists questions that thinking, noting that most of those citations have been thrown out by San Diego County courts.

While you won't see us on one of these beaches any time soon, this would seem to be a typical instance of government overreach. Were these beaches privately owned, the owners would certainly be within their rights to permit or prohibit this behavior as they chose. In the case of public property, this is a case of government harassment insofar as these people don't want anything other than to be left alone on a beach. And, of course, proactively enforcing a nudity ban is a complete waste of taxpayers' money.

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