Judge Temporarily Bans Naked Billboard on Church Building

NEW YORK — In response to a minister’s complaint, a judge on Monday temporarily barred bare buttocks billboards that a bidet company had planned to put up in Broadway’s theater district on a building that houses a church.

State Supreme Court Justice Marcy Friedman ordered the temporary restraining order against raising the billboards at the request of the Rev. Neil Rhodes, pastor of the interdenominational Times Square Church.

The billboard ads, featuring naked buttocks with smiley faces, were to promote the Washlet, a bidet-toilet seat that uses warm water and air. They were to go up for 30 days beginning July 1 on two sides of the building at 51st Street and Broadway that houses the Times Square Church, which claims 8,000 members, and its Bible school and day care center.

The judge ordered Rhodes and the church to post a $90,000 bond pending a decision on the issues discussed at a conference between the parties. She said the bond would go to the defendants for damages and costs — including lost revenues — if the court determines the church was not entitled to an injunction.

“The court finds that the motion presents novel and significant issues on which further legal authority is required,” the judge said, suggesting she needed to do research before she could decide the case.

Rhodes had asked the court to block billboard ad company Van Wagner Communications LLC from putting up the cheeky displays, claiming they would interfere with the church’s religious mission.

A lawyer for Van Wagner did not immediately return calls for comment Monday. No one could be reached at the church.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Tuesday July 10, 2007.
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