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Church Appeal over Lapdance Club in Oxford Rejected

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An OXFORD congregation lost its appeal at Oxford Magistrates on 30 June 2010 to overturn the variation of a licence to run a lap dancing club just 50 yards from their church.
 
The Revd Vaughan Roberts, Rector of St Ebbe’s Church, lodged an appeal after Oxford Council’s Licensing Committee granted the variation on December 10, 2009, to Greene King to run Thirst Lodge in Pennyfarthing Place, off St Ebbe’s Street.
 
The Revd Vaughan Roberts, said: “We still feel that granting a variation of the licence to permit lap dancing at this sort of establishment was totally inappropriate because of its proximity to the church and because these types of clubs can make women feel vulnerable—there are hundreds of young female students who live nearby and women who park their cars in the nearby Westgate Car Park. We wouldn’t be keen to see such a club anywhere because lap-dancing degrades God’s gift of sex.”
 
Mr Roberts’s appeal included the fact that hundreds of children took part in activities at the church every week, and that the licensing authority would never have granted such a licence for a club to be opened next to a school, so why would it allow a club to be opened next to a church which has as many children and young people?
 
A petition signed by 800 people and several hundred letters were received by the Court prior to the hearing. Mr Roberts told the Court a further concern was the site of the club, which he described as “adjacent to one of the gateways into the university city.”
 
He added: “We are obviously disappointed about the decision because it doesn’t fit with the council’s intention to regenerate this area of the city and doesn’t take into account that women should be able to feel as safe as possible when they are out at night. It also doesn’t seem to fit with the views of many Oxford residents and visitors who were so keen to express their support for the appeal when they became aware that the club was opening.
 
The church was supported in its action by the Christian Legal Centre. Its founder and director, Andrea Minichiello Williams, said: “The licence granted will have to be reviewed after one year because Oxford City Council has adopted a new regime which changes the way that lap dancing clubs are licensed. In areas where Councils have not adopted this new regime lap dancing licences will continue to be considered under existing licensing law which means that they are treated no differently than nightclubs and pubs. The Christian Legal Centre is urging supporters to ask their Councils to adopt the new regime that gives more powers to local authorities to protect the culture of their town centres.
 
It is important to oppose these clubs not just on a legal basis but on a moral basis. There is evidence that lap dancing clubs oppress women and are linked to an increase in rape and physical abuse; they encourage people trafficking, facilitate the sex trade and encourage marital unfaithfulness.
 
It is vital that local churches stand up for Christian values in the public square and we are grateful to St Ebbe's Church for taking this lead.”

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