August 21, 2002


SEX IN THE HOUSE OF THE LORD: I've been following with interest the events of the last few days involving the New York shock-jocks Opie and Anthony, who directed a stunt in which a couple was encouraged to have sex in St. Patrick's Cathedral. The couple and a producer were arrested, and the two radio hosts were suspended indefinitely by their station, WNEW. The low-rent Stern imitators are no stranger to trouble, having been thrown off the air in Boston in 1998 when they reported on the air that Mayor Thomas Menino had died. Now right-wing blowhard William Donahoe of the Catholic League and others are attempting to revoke WNEW's charter and punish its parent companies, Viacom and Infinity Broadcasting.
Now, I of course find it hard to defend the act of having sex in a house of worship, especially in the middle of the day in which numerous people (including children) were worshipping nearby. Whether it's abuse of a child by a priest or consensual sex by adults as part of a radio stunt, there's obviously no excuse for any type of sexual intercourse within the confines of a church.
However, recalling an experience from earlier in my life gave me new perspective on the situation. Back in my high school Jewish youth group days, our region got together at quarterly events known as "conclaves," which always ended with a "shul-in," in which all hundred-odd participants at the conclave would sleep and/or stay up in the synagogue at which the event was held. It goes without saying, with that many teenagers packed together in such a small space, that quite a bit of debauchery always took place- there were always apocryphal anecdotes that couples-for-the-night had snuck into the rabbi's office, or even the sanctuary. Now granted, to my knowledge nobody either had sex nor broadcast their adventures on the radio, but this nonetheless very much qualifies as Sexual Activity In a House of Worship.
It also goes without saying that on sexual issues especially, the Catholic Church isn't quite so liberal as Reform Judaism, with its coterie of openly gay rabbis, and a sometimes odd morality in which it's okay to not believe in God as long as you're pro-choice. But I find it kind of strange that when shul-ins were outlawed a few years ago, it wasn't because of the sex-in-temple thing, but rather over fear of potential sexual harassment suits. Perhaps the O&A case will make them think twice.

Posted by Stephen Silver at August 21, 2002 08:51 PM
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