Religious sisters in Stone Park, Ill. are fighting the opening of a new strip club near their convent, saying the business is contrary to their Christian work and undermines the neighborhood.
“It’s built right next to our premises, about 400 feet away. It is against our Christian principles,” Sr. Madonna Daltoe, treasurer of the Missionary Sisters of St. Charles Borromeo Scalabrinians, told EWTN News Feb. 9.
“This new structure has gone up already behind us,” she added. “We do not need to add any more to the village’s social problems. They have enough of these sorts of places, I would say, and we do not want any more. It is not helping the neighborhood.”
The sisters work with poor migrants in their area and provide evangelization outreach as well.
They have objected to Stone Park village officials' approval of the strip club, which will have partially nude performers and alcohol, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
The group questions whether village officials properly followed the rules during the approval process for the club. Its green-walled metallic structure may have been built too close to the sisters’ property, less than two feet from their fence line.
The sisters’ retirement home is closest to the club building, though their property also includes a formation house for novices and their provincial offices. They have asked the owner if he has any other options to earn money from the property.
“We were hoping there could be another sort of business, not entertainment clubs,” Sr. Daltoe said. “We hope he could engage in a different kind of business where he could influence the moral values of society in a positive way.”
“We hope that Christian values could be prevalent, and not (those) distorting, perhaps, the minds of our youngsters.”
The sisters teach their religion to the young people in the neighborhood. Sr. Daltoe objected to “counter-values being proposed in the area.”
She told the Sun-Times that the sisters and many neighbors were not properly notified of the project.
Stone Park officials said the village sent notifications to the wrong address because of incorrect property records. The village followed all other legal requirements, including posting notice of the project in a local newspaper.
Stone Park Mayor Beniamino Mazzulla told the Sun-Times he is “not a big fan” of the project and approved it only after developers sued the village in 2010 and settled the case for undisclosed terms.
The sisters’ property extends into the neighboring village of Melrose Park, where Mayor Ronald Serpico, a Catholic, is “infuriated” by the club’s location, Serpico’s spokesman said. The mayor has asked the village attorney to see if anything can be done to block it.
Club owner and developer Bob Itzkow told the Sun-Times he understands that the sisters may have “moral objections” to the business, but he wants to be a good neighbor and has taken steps to reduce the light noise from his club, which will be called “Get It.”
He said his business is not changing the character of the village, which for decades has been known for its racy nightspots, gambling, prostitution and organized crime figures.
While Itzkow said he does not welcome more court visits, a lawsuit “would give me so much wanted publicity.”
Sr. Daltoe said Itzkow has told her that he will not allow anyone under age 21 to enter the club.
“Of course. That makes sense. However, what happens after 21?”
Any future employees of the club should “try to live a more dignified life by looking for other options in society where they can get a more dignified source of income for themselves and their families,” she told CNA.
She had a short message for the club’s potential customers. “Don’t go there,” she said.
“Our hope is that our neighborhood will improve. It will not be classified as a 'sin town,' because that’s what the media has called it. There’s a lot of good people in this town also.”