11/07/2013

Attendees Face Possible Temple Changes, Chapter 201 Violations

people circle the flames at an art burn
participants at a temple burn

RENO - New revelations about impacts to The Temple, a fixture of the annual Burning Man event, come out as a 4-day long Staff Retreat wraps up. Information acquired by those close to the proceedings revealed today some consternation on the part of organizers after reading the applicable regulatory provisions covering the annual arts and music festival, with one staffer saying:
Honestly, I am flabbergasted. What we sold to our community as a success towards protecting the First Amendment turned out to be nothing of the sort. As far as we can tell, the bill we lobbied for this year in the Nevada capital only protects the business, not participants. This oversight is as shocking to us as it will be to those in our community. We hope that the changes to the event and The Temple won't unduly impact those who love Burning Man.
Staffers close to Black Rock City LLC, which operates the event, said that when organizers proclaimed a First Amendment victory after the bill went in to law they may have been mistaken. The bill in question, AB374, signed in to law June 5th by Governor Brian Sandoval, amended portions of Nevada code 244, ceding some permitting authority to, in the case of Burning Man, a federal body which permits the event. This bill was lobbied for by the LLC to forbid it from being being made to pay exorbitant local permit fees and to, ostensibly, protect attendees from what were claimed to be First Amendment rights restrictions. When contacted to comment about the potential ramifications of the full enforcement of the state and local regulations an expert in Nevada law, and six time event attendee, John Harrigan, had this to say: 
The impacts of enforcing NRS 244.3548, which concerns unlawful acts, are many. Under provisions 3-6 attendees would be subject to punishment for violations of Chapter 201 Title 15. The impact of local law enforcement applying these obscenity laws could be harsh on the burner community.
Marian Goodell, director of business and communications for BRC LLC, who appeared to avoid the question of obscenity as it related to nudity and free expression, feels that the greatest impact to the event could be the Chapter 201 violations that would relate to The Temple. Though some changes to the location of The Temple would be required to fully adhere to state law she feels that applying the law could be a benefit to the community, in a prepared statement she had this to say on behalf of the LLC:
Upon further review of the pertinent law and participant feedback we feel that this might result in a win for our community. For years people have complained about distractions during the Temple Burn. The continued distractions and recent rise in drone use has given us cause to act on behalf of the community. We feel that using the power of state law, in partnership with local law enforcement, can ensure those who cherish the solemnity of the Temple Burn will continue to find what they seek.
An individual who has information regarding the changes made available a document that goes on to list the possible changes to The Temple burn and the justifications for any participant impact. It shows that BRC LLC intends to use the provisions under Chapter 201 section 270, which deals with disturbing religious meetings, to enact the changes many have called for in yearly feedback. The regulations under NRS 201.270 state that the following infractions would quality as a misdemeanor under state law and would be enforced to protect community interests.
Every person who shall willfully disturb, interrupt or disquiet any assemblage or congregation of people met for religious worship by noisy, rude or indecent behavior, profane discourse, either within the place where such meeting is held, or so near it as to disturb the order and solemnity of the meeting; shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.
In order to further comply with the extended provisions of the regulation BRC LLC will move The Temple further out to ensure that it complies with NRS 201.280, which prohibits the distribution of alcoholic beverages within 1 mile of any camp or field meeting for religious worship during the time any such meeting is being held.

Some feel that the much asked for changes to The Temple burn are a way to cover up the impending First Amendment restrictions that attendees can expect when state obscenity laws are fully enforced.

While these changes are unlikely to do great harm to the event, they signal a continuing cultural shift that sees the brand moving more towards appealing to a mainstream suburban audience.