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Nude kids' camp found harmless

The governor's general counsel suggests a congressman seek local, legislative or national remedies.

Published July 1, 2003

Gov. Jeb Bush, following a congressman's complaints, ordered a state investigation into nude summer camps for children, but the probe uncovered no evidence of illegal activity, according to the governor's general counsel.

In a letter to U.S. Rep. Mark Foley, R-West Palm Beach, General Counsel Raquel Rodriguez said Bush "shares your concern for the well-being of children" but there is little he can do. Instead, the letter indicates that perhaps Congress, the state Legislature or individual communities might want to get involved.

Foley, co-chairman of the House's Missing and Exploited Children's Caucus, learned of children attending nude summer camps from a newspaper article. The news led Foley to ask the state to look into the practice in Florida, including a nude camp run at the Lake Como nudist resort in Land O'Lakes under the direction of Kissimmee-based American Association for Nude Recreation.

Rodriguez, in a letter released Monday by Foley's office, reported the state has no law against being nude without evidence of intent to engage in lewd or lascivious behavior.

The state will continue to investigate, Rodriguez wrote to Foley. But it might not be up to the governor's office to interfere.

"Governor Bush supports solutions to protect children from sexual and financial exploitation and encourages members of Congress and the Florida Legislature to consider legislation that would prevent solicitation by these establishments using interstate commerce if inappropriate or illegal behavior is occurring," Rodriguez wrote.

The governor's office also suggested if not the Legislature, perhaps local communities should oversee nude camps.

"The state's interest in protecting children is enhanced by local communities, which are in a stronger position to regulate activities that take place in their jurisdiction," Rodriguez wrote.

Foley's communications director, Christopher Paulitz, said the congressman is pleased that the governor and the state Department of Children and Families got involved and is studying the issue. Paulitz said Foley has considered addressing the matter in Congress, but so far has thought it might be best dealt with by individual states.

State Rep. John Quinones, R-Kissimmee, said Monday that constituents in his district, concerned about a nudist resort there, brought the issue of children at nudist camps to him. He said he is studying the situation and might introduce legislation next year, but it was too early to say how that bill would address the issue.

"I want to make sure whatever I do is constitutional," he said. "I want to protect our children, but I want to do it within the Constitution."

A statement released Monday by the nude recreation association supports Bush's position and findings, calling the letter "a very thoughtful, pragmatic response."

"We stand ready to provide our support in protecting the well-being of our youth against illegal behavior," the statement reads.

[Last modified July 1, 2003, 01:47:45]

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