Oregon group gets 'Jesus Loves Strippers' sign removed in Salem

A signpost held a "Jesus Loves Strippers" sign from June 26 until July 3 on Mission Street Southeast in Salem, when a city code enforcement officer asked a group to remove it because it's "out of compliance for height, it is in the right-of-way, and it presents a potential traffic vision hazard." The action was taken after the city received complaints. (KATU)

After a group complained about a sign near a busy road in Salem reading "Jesus loves strippers. Honk if you agree," the city asked an organization to remove it.

Members of Salem Community Vision, the group that complained, said they didn't take issue with the sign's message, just its placement on a public right-of-way.

Kenny Larson, a city spokesman, told KATU the city has had a limited ability to enforce sign regulations.

"Due to budget cuts about five years ago, we lost the Code Enforcement Officer 1 position that primarily dealt with signs, grass and weeds," Larson said via email. "There is only so much time and money available."

The sign in question promoted POLE Gems, a nonprofit group selling fireworks at a tent off Mission Street Southeast near 25th Street.

"Jesus loves strippers because Jesus loves all," Cynthia Shaver, the executive director and founder of POLE Gems, explained Monday.

She said she worked as a cocktail server in a strip club about 20 years ago.

"One thing that I realized is that for these people working in these clubs, sometimes the conditions are hard," Shaver said.

To help out adult entertainment workers, Shaver said POLE Gems provides free and low-cost services.

"We are a faith-based organization. But our mission is not to try to convert people," Shaver said. "We offer counseling, we offer all kinds of stuff. We throw baby showers. We fill in where people may not be able to afford, like, their electric bill."

Although a KATU crew saw and heard several drivers honking in support of the cause, Salem Community Vision, a prominent civic group, was not happy about the sign and the problem they said it represents.

"It's just a mess. It makes Salem look tacky," said Brian Hines, who sits on the steering committee for Salem Community Vision.

Over the weekend the group put up a Facebook post criticizing the sign.

"I mean one, it's way bigger than the usual political sign," said Hines. "It's smack-dab in the right-of-way. It's obscuring the vision, the sight-line to the intersection. It didn't have to do with the message. We had no idea what POLE Gems was. Personally, I kind of like the idea of 'Jesus loves strippers' even though I'm not religious. I mean, who doesn't love strippers?"

"It is out of compliance for height, it is in the right-of-way, and it presents a potential traffic vision hazard," Larson said regarding the sign.

Hines said several other signs in Salem are breaking the law as well and his group has posted about them in the past.

After looking at photos of signs previously posted by Salem Community Vision, Larson said one sign promoting Kelly's Home Center in a public right-of-way is in violation and he's 99 percent sure at least two signs campaigning for city council candidates are in violation as well.

“Many of (the signs) are of city councilors running for public office that allow their signs to be put in the right-of-way," Hines said, "so it’s kind of no wonder maybe that they’re not really eager to enforce the ordinance.”

"I have never heard of such controversy over a sign," said Shaver.

On Monday evening she said POLE Gems took down their signpost and replaced it with human sign-holders after a code enforcement officer talked with them Monday afternoon.

Shaver said the officer told them the multiple signs on and around their tent are non-compliant due to size regulations but the city only took action on the one in the right-of-way because of complaints.

Larson did not immediately respond to an email and voicemail left by a KATU reporter seeking to confirm Shaver's claims.

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