The three were charged with obscenity charges for having sex within the view of the public. That charge could raise some interesting legal issues and a viable (if novel) criminal defense.
We have often discussed the controversy over obscenity standards, including a recent charge against the producers of the movie “Cuties.”
In this case, the charge may hinge on the question of whether the sexual encounter could be seen from a public space. Under the Louisiana criminal code, the operative language is found in Section 106:
A. The crime of obscenity is the intentional:
(1) Exposure of the genitals, pubic hair, anus, vulva, or female breast nipples in any public place or place open to the public view, or in any prison or jail, with the intent of arousing sexual desire or which appeals to prurient interest or is patently offensive.
(2)(a) Participation or engagement in, or management, operation, production, presentation, performance, promotion, exhibition, advertisement, sponsorship, electronic communication, or display of, hard core sexual conduct when the trier of fact determines that the average person applying contemporary community standards would find that the conduct, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest; and the hard core sexual conduct, as specifically defined herein, is presented in a patently offensive way; and the conduct taken as a whole lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.
The code does have an exception for “churches” and other organizations but only for “persons acting in their capacity as employees or agents of such organizations.” I think we can agree that, in a church that adheres to a strict celibacy rule for priests, this is outside of the scope of employment.
Adding to the bizarre elements of the case is a report that Dixon, who is also an adult film actress, posted on social media that she was traveling to the New Orleans area to meet up with another dominatrix to “defile a house of God.” The women reportedly told the police they were at the church to film “roleplay” with the priest. It is not clear if an actual film was created.
All of this creates a legal quagmire. There is no question that filming a porn film at the church would violate Clark’s agreement with the church and possibly constitute trespass or other collateral minor offenses. He could also be sued for the cost of removing, burning, and replacing the altar. Yet, filming pornography is not considered prostitution and is a lawful act (unless found in violation of another law like criminal obscenity). The question is whether this is “in any public place or place open to the public view.” This is where my criminal defense background takes hold. There is an argument that this is neither a public place nor open to public view. The church was closed and thus not a “public” space at that time. When locked, it becomes private space under the control of the priests and staff.
Moreover, it is not clear what could be seen from public areas. In order to see into the church, the witness presumably had to go on church land. I have looked at the church property and there appears access from the sidewalk but it is not clear which window the witness used to look into the church. One article does show some windows close to the altar. If the court declares that the statutorily elements of exposure must be satisfied from a public location like the sidewalk, it may be difficult to establish those elements.
The question is how to distinguish this other cases. If this were not a House of God, but an actual home, we would not be discussing the possibility of a crime. Even if a house is near the sidewalk, entering the property to look into a window would be trespass. The area outside of a home is often called the curtilage and is afforded protection of privacy as well as constitutional protections under the Fourth Amendment in cases of police surveillance. We have previously discussed some cases where people expose themselves inside of a home in plain view of the street, including a man arrested for making coffee at home in the nude. However, in this case, the scene was clearly not visible from the street and it is not clear what could be seen from the window since the altar is at the end of the Nave and beyond to the back of the Bema. It was the light that drew the witness to look into the window, not the scene itself.
Defense counsel could also challenge whether specific acts that were witnessed and whether any of the statutorily defined areas were exposed.
One would expect that Clark’s priestly career is over. Indeed, if this was a filmmaking enterprise, he presumably intended to leave the service of the Church since the altar and his participation would have been likely discovered. However, he may have a chance to defeat the criminal charge in what could be one of the most unique criminal defenses in history.
73 thoughts on “Louisiana Priest Arrested In “Demonic” Act With Two Women On Church Altar”
The priest could use the “George Costanza” defense from the old “Seinfeld” TV series. When George was questioned about having sex with the cleaning lady at work, George’s character basically said: “the employee handbook doesn’t say you can’t do it, was that wrong?”.
These prostitutes should be charged with criminal trespass and given the severest penalty. Skip the First Amendment fiddlesticks.
Then audit their tax returns. There, they can meat a real devil in the form of a revenooer. One is almost guaranteed that they have intentionally failed to report income. Just a hypothesis, but one that in this instance is worth testing.
I have a lot of sympathy for sex workers who ply a decent trade in normal consensual adult sex acts in private. I have zero for such like as this who want to offend and defile sacred spaces.
This is about on the level of the idiotic “performance art” of the subversive group “femen” who has desecrated various churches in Russia to make some sort of invalid point.
Perhaps people are not familiar with the novel La Bas by Huysmans
I forced myself to read it when I was in college. Disgusting and yet morbidly fascinating
the continuing interest in “satanic” blasphemies does echo the ever increasing nihilism of our contemporary society.
The Church is deeply sick. The system of seminaries is infested with sickos for decades now and heretical suggestions flow from the Chair of St Peter itself.
I believe the assorted constellation of Catholic Church corporate structures and shells, need a heavy dose of RICO prosecutions to clean out the muck from their stables. It is a Herculean task but some hero will undertake it, if not now, one day…It’s worth trying to save. If only for the decent people who keep on going for the sacraments. For now I am not one of them.
Years ago, an old priest told me “ Either the Church washes her own dirty linen, or the world will. And if the world does, there will be no mercy.” We are at that point.
This is an example of the problems when you bring your personal issues to work.
For the most part this would be an internal issue for the church, likely culminating in defrocking the priest. Shouldn’t be a problem, as he didn’t want to keep his frock on in the first place.
As for the legal aspect, perhaps it would be construed as vandalism. The altar is considered defiled and had to be burned. I imagine they are expensive.
If this occurred at night, and the church was lighted, they could be seen from cars driving past. It depends on whether the windows had any covering, stained glass, or anything else to obstruct the view. The photograph seems to show glass front doors. I don’t know if the narthex doors were open, with a full view of the altar.
This is really demented. If you don’t like the Church, don’t attend, and don’t be a priest. Go your own way. There is definitely a fetish for defiling Christian sacred objects, such as putting crucifixes in jars of urine and displaying it as “art”, or Madonna writhing, scantily clad, in front of Jesus on the cross.
alter is misspelled. altar is the proper spelling .see the url.
It’s an awful and disgusting sacrilege. It shows how utterly retarded out “First Amendment” cases have become that they protect obscenity so long as it’s out there on film for all to see, but private acts of paid sex between consenting adults are criminal subjects. now this is obviously not in private. that’s almost a red herring.
It’s nice Turley turned his glance to this subject,. albeit in this disgusting and peculiar facts. I have said this about a hundred times here, that sex work should be legalized and it’s preposterous that we have this bizarre “first amendment” porn exception, with no sympathy for porn producers but a lot of sympathy for the poor sex worker trying to earn her bread.
But In these facts, how offensive and wrong and sick.
at the same time I am for legalization of paid sex work between consenting adults, I would subject it to reasonable health regulation, and reasonable licensing and zoning regulation. this is not a proper venue.
The interests of society in public health, welfare, morals, and order, are not always and everywhere to be immediately cancelled by someone holding up the overwrought interpretations of the First Amendment.
finally. It used to be for nearly my entire life, that Catholic Church doors are always open day and night 24/7. I have walked into many Catholic churches at different regular waking hours to look or pray when nobody was there and don’t recall them being locked except for construction. So they are definitely public. But, I guess COVID might have changed all that huh?
“One would expect that Clark’s priestly career is over. ”
Just think, if Clark had been molesting young boys this wouldn’t even be an issue.
Exactly. Maybe he was practicing for a career change into politics/political commentary?
Jonathan, it is Father Travis Clark, not “Reverend”.
And Travis had best get the hell out of Nola as quickly as possible, if he knows what’s good for him.
This makes me think of a scene in James Cain’s novel: SERENADE, in which a gay male opera star, having lost his voice supposedly as a result of sleeping with his gay male patron, regains it when he goes to Mexico, there meets a lusty peasant girl, and ravishes her on the altar of a church.
Hmmm. This trio deserves an Irish Poem! You know, this guy could be a member of The Hellbound Saints, who are Catholic Priests of the Augustine Interfaith Order of Hellbound Saints, a group of men and women who live lives of sin and debauchery so that their souls are always damnation-ready. They are called to exorcisms, and when they meet a particularly powerful demon, they tempt him to possess them and then kill themselves, thus dragging the demon back down to hell with them. In which case, Travis Clark is a superhero!
Clark Bent- An Altar Ego???
A Catholic Priest, name of Clark-
Was determined that he’d leave his mark!
He had quite a lapse
When he screwed in the apse,
And then, didn’t do it in the dark!
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