Courtland Milloy column on indecent exposure case

By Courtland Milloy
Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Just two pages into my King James Version of the Holy Bible, which my parents gave me when I was 10, the creation story took a devilish turn. Adam and Eve are happily naked in the Garden of Eden -- until they eat that apple.

I could almost hear the chaos unfold.

Eww, says Adam, you're nekkid! You, too, says Eve, and it ain't pretty.

Thus began my modern-day angst over nudity. Dreaming about being nude in public is enough to make me wake up in a cold sweat.

"Who told thee that thou wast naked?" God bellowed to Adam and Eve. I'm guessing it was the snake that beguiled Eve.

At least Eric Williamson knows for sure. It was a passerby who looked through a window of his home in Fairfax County last week, saw him naked and reported him to police. Williamson, 29, was arrested and charged with indecent exposure.

Since God's law makes no mention of such a crime, Virginia lawmakers made this one up:

"Every person who intentionally makes an obscene display or exposure of his person, or the private parts thereof, in any public place, or in any place where others are present, or procures another to so expose himself, shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor."

Now that's one tortured law, its authors seemingly racked by as much guilt and shame as I am. Grown men and women in a state legislature couldn't even specify the "private parts thereof" or say what an obscene "exposure of his person" really means.

Moreover, there is nothing in the law forbidding the "exposure of her person." The temptress gets a pass. Which raises a question: Would a complaint have been lodged if Williamson had been a woman standing in the window?

In a recent online chat with Washington Post readers, defense lawyer Atchuthan Sriskandarajah said that case law in Virginia is subject to various interpretations. However, "committing an act of exposure with the knowledge that you are going to be seen and then perhaps touching your private parts . . . will usually be sufficient."

On the other hand, the law also says: "No person shall be deemed to be in violation of this section for breastfeeding a child in any public place or any place where others are present."

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