Kansas Anti-Adult Group Seeks Grand Jury Ruling

Matt O'Conner
WICHITA, Kan. — A group called Operation Southwind will deliver a petition in federal court this week requesting a grand jury review of seven adult retail stores. The group hopes a ruling in its favor will be the first step in ridding the state of sexually oriented businesses.

The group claims the stores are violating Kansas obscenity laws and have negative “secondary effects” on the community. They collected more than 7,000 voter signatures and will present the petition to a court clerk tomorrow.

The situation is the latest in a long string of attacks against the rights of adult-oriented business within the state this year.

Caving in to pressure from a radical special interest group called Citizens for Strengthening Community Values, prosecutors charged a Lion’s Den store in Abilene with 11 counts of obscenity. In Lawrence, the Naughty But Nice store is fighting efforts to be forcibly moved. Last week, state legislators met to consider a whopping 25 percent tax on adult products.

While such efforts may rile the emotions of a small number of vocal citizens, industry attorneys say they have no legal basis.

“These are constitutionally protected rights that these people have, whether [their opponents] like it or not,” lawyer Charles O’Hara said. “This is like a lynch-mob mentality.”

If history bears out, O’Hara has a point.

The state legislature first made pornography a target in 1986 with the passage of a strict obscenity law. But portions of that law were struck down in subsequent cases and a grand jury in 1998 refused to indict adult businesses under the law.

In 2003, another petition was thrown out of court on a technicality, but Philip Cosby, head of Citizens for Strengthening Community Values, convinced state legislators to fix the glitch that killed the case, thereby making it more likely that this latest petition effort will succeed.

Cosby’s stature as a porn fighter is growing. After the 2003 petition was thrown out, he convinced a district attorney to file obscenity charges against the Lion’s Den. The case is pending.

Because of his track record in the Lion’s Den case, Operation Southwind enlisted Cosby to take a lead roll in signing up voters for the Witchita petition and ensuring the process was done by the book.

Five other communities across the state also have asked for Cosby’s help in launching petition drives, making him a person to watch in the anti-adult movement.