Oklahomans Can’t Dance Too Close to a Church

(CN) – A small Oklahoma town has canceled its Valentine’s Day dance because it would violate a morality ordinance that prohibits dancing within 500 feet of a church.

The population of Henryetta, in east central Oklahoma, declined by nearly 10 percent from 2000 to 2010, according the Census Bureau figures: from 6,096 to 5,510. The population has been dwindling since the town’s largest employer, a plate glass factory, closed in 1990.

The organizer canceled the dance at Rosie LaVon’s Marketplace after a citizen asked about the ordinance that bans dancing within 500 feet of a church. Rosie LaVon’s is 300 feet from a church.

Robbie Kinney told ABC News outlet KTUL that she wanted to go to the dance, but she knew about the law, so she asked city officials whether it had been repealed, and posted the question on Facebook.

“That’s when the attacks began” KTUL reported.

“They want to attack your character; they want to attack your past,” Kinney told the TV station.

Mayor Jennifer Clason said the law had “never been enforced in my entire life,” but it was still on the books.

Police Chief Steve Norman said he’s never enforced the law and has no interest in enforcing it.

But the organizer’s husband is the city attorney, and sworn to uphold the law.

“Laws are laws, and we’re going to abide by them,” Kinney told KTUL. “We can’t pick and choose what laws we uphold.”

Clason said the City Council will consider repealing the ordinance at its Feb. 22 meeting—but by then Valentine’s Day will have come and gone.

Henryetta is 60 miles south of Tulsa, in Okmulgee County. It is 80 percent white, 12 percent Native American, and 23 percent of its residents live below the federal poverty line.

Its most famous residents include Dallas Cowboys Troy Aikman, who went to high school there, and professional cowboy Jim Shoulders. It’s also the the birthplace of Oklahoma Supreme Court Chief Justice Steven Taylor.

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