In the two decades since they staked their claim to 50 leafy acres southeast of Richmond, the patrons of White Tail Park nudist resort have worshiped at Sunday services, bronzed themselves at the pool, mingled over potluck dinners and generally kept to their bare selves.
And like everyone else who prefers to spend his or her time in the buff, the White Tail nudists have heard the jokes that members of what they call the "textile world" make about nudists being eccentric and even depraved.
Usually, they take such ribbing in stride. But when the Virginia General Assembly joined in on it this year and passed a law requiring that children who attend youth nudist camps be accompanied by their parents, grandparents or legal guardians, the naturists' good nature soured.
That law, they say, implies that they do not know what is best for their children. So in June, the resort and three families filed a suit challenging the law, which they argue violates parents' constitutional rights to bring up their children as they deem appropriate -- even if it includes shipping them off to a camp where naked talent shows and water polo are on the agenda.
The lawsuit is pending, although last month a federal judge in Richmond denied the nudists' request to suspend the law until a final ruling is made. That meant two-thirds of 35 campers who had signed up for White Tail's weeklong youth camp in July could not go, so the American Association of Nude Recreation, the camp's sponsor, moved it to an undisclosed location in a nearby state.
"They are taking away our rights as parents," said Norfolk resident Dorothy Hardee, 38, who is a plaintiff along with her husband, Kenny, 42, and two of their children. "They think that we are some sort of deviants," Hardee said. Although they, like the other plaintiffs, are identified in the suit only by their initials, the Hardees agreed to talk with a reporter.
The suit was filed on the plaintiffs' behalf by the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia.
The law's influence has spread. Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.) is pushing for a similar restriction in his home state, where a youth nudist camp has been operating for a decade. And the International Naturist Federation, a sort of United Nations of nudism, is planning to discuss a boycott of Virginia at its convention in Croatia this month.
Del. John S. "Jack" Reid (R-Henrico), who sponsored the legislation after fielding calls from alarmed constituents, said he meant no offense to nudists. But Reid, a former middle school principal, said he is certain that nude adolescents experiencing emotional and physical change need parents nearby.
"I just do not think that environment is a productive and safe environment and a healthy environment for young people," he said.
Reid also said he was concerned that youths who are reluctant nudists might not have the courage to tell their parents if they did not want to spend a week naked in the woods with peers.
White Tail parents said that their children are willing participants. However, "If they at some point say, 'I'm not going to do this anymore,' I'm not going to force them to do it," Dorothy Hardee said.
Parents and campers at White Tail said they are especially angry that no Virginia lawmakers visited the park, where 25 families live in homes year-round and others stay in trailers or tents on weekends. They said they and the other 50,000 members of the nudist association are free-spirited but far from irresponsible. The Florida-based association also sponsors the youth camp in Florida and another that has been held in Arizona and California.
A 2000 survey by the marketing group Claritas found that the association's most loyal members are suburban, professional Republicans who shop at the Gap, drive minivans and have children. About 80 percent of the 600 members of White Tail are current or former members of the military, and many are doctors or lawyers, park owner Robert Roche said.
"There's no safer place for you to be," said one of the plaintiffs, a 48-year-old mother and small-business owner from Hampton who agreed to an interview on the condition that her identity not be revealed.
Parents here said that the White Tail youth camp, which was first held in July 2003, was like any other summer camp, minus the clothing. Counselors and a few dozen 11- to 17-year-old campers -- who were all raised in nudist families -- pitched tents in an enclosed corner of the park for a week of sports, art lessons and workshops, including one called "I'm a Nudist. Am I a Nut?"
"They mix fun, and they mix learning and they mix all kinds of skills together," said Roche, 54.
Campers say that they follow the rules that govern White Tail: Nudity is required, except in cases of sunburn, sickness or cold weather. No obscene behavior is allowed.
The Hardees and their 12-year-old daughter say that nudism is a social equalizer -- with no clothes, there is no status -- and seeing bodies of all shapes helps people accept their own. The youth camp, they said, gives nudist children the chance to be around other kids like them.
One of those children who attended last year, a 13-year-old girl whose parents were married in a nude ceremony at White Tail, said the nudist camp was far less stressful than her Girl Scout camp, where catty cliques abound.
"We don't talk about other people here," said the girl, who spoke on condition that she not be identified because her classmates do not know that she is a nudist. "It's so much fun being a nudist. You really get closer to people than in the textile world."
The Hardees shopped around for summer camps for their daughter and 15-year-old son, settling on the nudist camp because it seemed "more wholesome," said Dorothy Hardee, the manager of a self-storage company.
When Reid offered his bill this year, lawmakers traded nudity puns before approving it. Not to be outdone, Gov. Mark R. Warner (D) said in an April news release that he supported "the bottom line intent" of the bill and had "naked admiration" for Reid. The law took effect July 1.
Tim Murtaugh, a spokesman for Virginia Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore (R), said the law protects children. "Should a prospective pedophile be attracted to the place, the knowledge that parents are around would be a deterrent," he said.
Roche said White Tail went to great lengths to protect campers, including doing criminal background checks for counselors. And anyway, parents said, nudist children have an acute radar for untoward behavior.
"We know how to look for COGs," said the 13-year-old, using a common nudist resort acronym for "Creepy Outside Guys" who come to ogle.
The state has filed a motion to dismiss the case, and a hearing is scheduled for today.