On January 26, 1957, a man was arrested for being nude with friends ON HIS OWN PROPERTY. Not only was the property privately owned, it was in a remote area and fenced in. This shows he was going out of his way to ensure privacy for himself and his guests, and to ensure others would not be offended. Nonetheless, the Attorney General claimed the incident constituted “indecent exposure”. Fortunately, the man could not be charged because the indecent exposure law did not apply to an enclosed area on private property.
However, as a result of this incident, Arkansas legislators (unable to tolerate choices they did not agree with) decided it was better to criminalize First Amendment rights than to tolerate a form of recreation they did not understand. And it didn't take them long... Arkansas law § 5-68-204 was passed less than a month later. It defined nudism as “the act or acts of a person or persons congregating or gathering with his, her, or their private parts exposed in the presence of one (1) or more persons of the opposite sex as a form of social practice.” The law then specifically targeted PRIVATE PROPERTY and made it illegal to participate in or even TALK about the subject... “It is unlawful for any: (1) Person, club, camp, corporation, partnership, association, or organization to advocate, demonstrate, or promote nudism; or (2) Person to rent, lease, or otherwise permit his or her land, premises, or buildings to be used for the purpose of advocating, demonstrating, or promoting nudism.” (The Arkansas Legislature was gracious enough to grant two exceptions. The provisions of the law do not apply to legally married couples or to doctors and nurses providing medical care.)
One would think that to find a law which violates principles as basic as freedom of speech and the right to privacy in your own home, you would need to look in places like China, North Korea, or the Middle East, but we are doing it right here in the heartland of the United States. We trumpet ourselves as being the "land of the free", but this shows just how fragile our freedom really is. All it takes is for a handful of buzz-kill prudes to consider something “obscene”, and they will sacrifice our most fundamental rights to protect their limited and misguided sense of “morality”.
As you read through this website, please bear in mind that your opinion about nudism (like, dislike, or indifferent) is actually irrelevant to the point being made. The point is that we should all be able to express our opinions about nudism without the government using the power of the law to silence one side while giving preferential treatment to the other. And if the Arkansas Legislature can decide what you can or can't say about nudism, what is to stop them from doing the same for other topics?
To further illustrate just how ill-conceived this law is, consider this... Violating this law is punishable by a fine up to $2,500 and/or imprisonment up to one year. A first offense for prostitution is only punishable by $1,000 and/or 90 days! So in the state of Arkansas, TALKING about nudism is a more serious crime than actually PARTICIPATING in human trafficking. And that, ladies and gentlemen, represents the GRAND STUPIDITY of the Arkansas Legislature!
This is not just an "Arkansas" issue, and it is not just a "naturist" issue. If "We The People" allow free speech to be outlawed on a given topic (any topic), then other governments (local, state, or federal) can use this as a precedent to prevent citizens from discussing other topics. If freedom of speech is denied for any of us, it is weakened for all of us. As a nation, how many trillions of dollars have we spent to protect and promote freedom around the globe? How many of our veterans have sacrificed their lives or their health to keep us free? Are we really going to throw all of that away so a portion of our society can feel self-righteous?! Whether you like, dislike, or couldn't care less about nudism, do the right thing and stand up for our Constitutional right to at least TALK about it. Defend freedom of speech!
Some, including fellow naturists, have pointed out that no one has been arrested for breaking this law in a long time. They ask, "What's the big deal if the law isn't being enforced?" I have two answers for that. First and foremost, many Americans have died some horrific deaths to protect the freedoms we have. The idea that it is 'ok' to tolerate unconstitutional laws simply because they are not enforced is extremely disrespectful to their sacrifice. Secondly, even if the law is not enforced, it still has a real impact. The most obvious evidence of this is that there are ZERO naturist resorts in The Natural State, and this law is the reason why. There are those who own enough land that they can "get away with" enjoying nudism without interference from others, but this law makes it impossible to run a naturist resort that is open to the public (i.e. the kind that creates jobs and generates tax revenue). This means most Arkansas naturists have to travel out-of-state just to relax au naturel. For those in central Arkansas, the nearest naturist resorts are about five hours away, which means it's only practical to visit them on holiday weekends. So the law creates a situation where central Arkansas naturists can only enjoy nudism about three times a year (Memorial Day, 4th of July, and Labor Day). It's like telling someone who owns a Harley that they can only ride it three times a year, and that they have to haul it on a trailer until they cross the state line. That is exactly how absurd this law is. How would you feel if you could only participate in your favorite activity three times a year and had to go outside your home state to do it? That is the frustration Arkansas naturists have with this law.