BELLINGHAM, Wash. -- A two-month-old ordiance against dancing in public places or taverns in Lynden, Wash., a conservative border town of 4,000, has been upheld in Whatcom County Superior Court.
After listening to objections that the ban is an unconstitutional restriction on freedom of expression and the testimony of a Lynden city councilman who said dancing is 'evil' and could lead to adultery, Judge Marshall Forrest said the matter was a local issue that should be left up to the voters.
'It's true Lynden stands alone,' the judge said Tuesday, adding, however, that state law allows 'diversity, inherent in local government.'
The law prohibits dancing in any establishment that serves alcohol and requires citizens to obtain a single-use permit in order to dance in public places. No such permits are allowed for taverns.
'It's a real blow,' said Dennis Hindman, who represents the Harvest House Lounge, where dancing sprang up briefly earlier this year but was brought to a halt by the ordinance.
'I don't see anything harmful in young people dancing,' Hindman told the judge. 'We're not talking about regulation here, we're talking about prohibition of a right.'
He quoted Plato's description of dancing as a high art form and said town officials 'are declaring dancing to be a menace to the public health, and there is absolutely nothing to prove that.'
But town officials of the 14-church community -- where a recent effort to have Aldous Huxley's novel 'Brave New World' banned from schools failed -- proudly spoke of their 'Blue Laws,' saying they were what makes Lynden such a 'unique environment' to live in.
Egbert Maas, 19, a member of the City Council, called dancing 'evil' and said he had never indulged in the activity.
'I'd like to dance, but I see the harms and evils that come from it,' Maas said. 'Like guys dancing with other guys' wives, so I don't know what can come of it.'
He also boasted that 'we have the only Safeway store that doesn't sell alcohol.'
Hindman, vowing to appeal the ruling, said only two other towns in the nation have tried to ban dancing in ordinances similar to Lynden's. Both were struck down by state supreme courts, he said.