by Samuel Gerald (Jerry) Firman
This Sunday morning I drove to church in my old hometown of Warsaw. I was not going there to save my soul but to satisfy my curiosity about the Newcastle, Ohio, Strip Club owner who was repaying a Warsaw Church for picketing his business. What I found going on when I got there was both unsettling and comforting. While there seemed to be only supporters of the Strip Club sitting on the street corners adjacent to the Church, they were conducting themselves in a very civil manner. They displayed their many signs, most of which repeated supportive scripture, and they quietly spoke to any and all that would listen.
From an AP article published on 9 August 2010, "Tommy George, owner of the Foxhole club in Newcastle and some dancers were outside the New Beginnings Ministries church in nearby Warsaw on Sunday. The women, wearing bikinis, sat in lawn chairs in front of the church about 60 miles northeast of Columbus and waved at passing cars. They also displayed signs with Bible verses - including one warning of "false prophets" - written in neon colors." This article generated some national attention but this bit of news was not picked up by Coshocton County media until the 13th which is par for the course on any news deemed sensational by locals.
First of all I must admit that I did not get an interview with the Preacher involved or any of his congregation. They were inside the church and were exceedingly quiet. One person did come out the door with a laugh on her face and invite those outside to come in and pray with her. She went right back in and all remained quiet. The church is in an attractive, well maintained structure right off the Main Street of Warsaw. Warsaw's Mayor, by the way, is a prominent minister also.
The first couple interviewed were the sister and brother-in-law of Tom George. The sister wouldn't allow a closeup of just her and her sign but willingly sat for a group picture. She stated that she was there in support of her brother and proceeded to introduce this reporter to other members of the family sitting in that particular group. There were basically three groups of the protesters covering each of three corners on an intersection next to the church. Several in that group commented that they didn't want to cause trouble or inconvenience to anyone but that they felt something needed to be done about the churchgoers intimidation tactics when they picketed the Strip Club. Finally, the sister pointed to a gentleman across the street and said he was her brother. "That is Tom George."
Crossing the street I was amazed that the crowd, which was not inconsiderate, was sitting so quietly. People would move from group to group but there was no yelling, shouting or even loud talk. They seemed to be respectful of the fact they were in front of a church and in a quiet neighborhood. They looked more like a family gathering than a group of picketers.
I stopped in front of the man I had been told was Tom George. He and others were listening to a lady who spent some time explaining how she felt about the club/church fracas and saying she just wished everyone could get along. At an opportune moment I put my hand out to Tom George, shook his hand, and asked if he minded an interview with me.
"Not at all. I am glad to talk to you or anyone else about what is happening here. What we are doing here, what we want from this picketing is just to be left alone."
"What made you go to this extreme?" I asked.
Tom George then explained that the church had conducted organized picketing of his business establishment some 10 miles farther up the road in Newcastle. This picketing had been going on for nearly four years. Church members had made videos, taken pictures, used bull horns, all in order to intimidate his customers. They had chronicled times, listed plate numbers and generally disrupted traffic to and from the Strip Club.
"If you say anything about us, please say we just want to be left alone to do our business, live our lives, without encroachment by uncivil actions on the part of this church group."
As I turned to leave Mr. George turned me back with, "By the way, you have been calling me Tom George. My friends call me Tommy.