1/4/08

AMERICAN FORK, UTAH – POLICE INVADE CHURCH THAT TATTOOS


On January 3, 2008 at approximately 1pm the head of the Detectives Division of the American Fork, Utah Police and another unknown police officer, both in plain clothes, walked into Whole Life Ministries via the public services office – Happy Valley Tattoo & Piercing, at 275 E. State Rd. in American Fork presenting a search warrant to the Reverend and CEO Dr. Gregory Lowrey.
Dr. Lowrey informed the officers that they were in a church and that he didn’t believe they could serve a warrant or be in the office in an official capacity without an invitation.
Lt. Falslev told Dr. Lowrey that they could and would search the office and invited four other plainclothes officers waiting outside to come in to assist.
Reverend Lowrey felt he had no method to prohibit the ensuing search and seizure of artist portfolios, original art and art reproductions in portfolios from the office by no less than six officers of the law.
The warrant was issued by the Utah County Attorney Jeffrey R. Buhman 801-851-8026 and the American Fork City Attorney Tucker Hansen 801-224-2273 on allegation that on some unstated day, sometime after Christmas 2007 a un-named female staff member at Happy Valley Tattoo allowed two 14 year old girls to view a body piercing portfolio containing one or more genital piercing photographs.
According to the police, the girls immediately ran home and told their father who then made the complaint for the Ministry to be charged (presumably) with Indecent Public Displays of pornography to minors.
Of course, the police didn’t think to ask the father why his daughters were visiting a “tattoo studio” and looking at piercing photos, especially when there is ample notice that minors are prohibited without the company of their parents.
Nor did the city and county attorneys or police detectives consider that the alleged statements of the alleged minors were hearsay and that the clinical display of piercings does not constitute pornography.
Nor did they consider that any adult could have browsed or simply presumed the presence of such materials and fabricated the complaint.
Nor did the city and county attorneys or police consider the possibility of simply informing the ministry of the complaint and seeking a solution that did not involve a knee-jerk approach and the threat of prosecution.
Instead the local government saw an opportunity to attack something they just don’t like without first validating the complaint enough to know on what day the alleged incident occurred.
In the nearly 20 years of offering tattoo and piercing services to the public we have never had a single complaint against us - until we moved last March to American Fork.
We feel our reputation has been attacked and that our reputation is something we are proud of and wish to maintain intact and we do not intend to be slandered or denied our constitutional and constitutionally protected religious rights and freedoms.
We have always made great efforts to conduct ourselves in a manner that would make the community feel we were a valued asset, but in Utah it is difficult to be taken at face value.
In my opinion, this is essentially a pogrom of the Mormon Good-ol'-Boy Government of American Fork intending to deny us our Constitutionally protected religious freedoms because we aren't Mormon.
And in traditional, Utah - Screw Your Neighbor - Good-ol'-Boy fashion, many Mormons will do anything they choose to deny to others the rights they claim for themselves, regardless of how they violate the laws in their illegal, bigoted activities.
Artist portfolios are kept in a bookcase behind the front counter and must be asked for to be perused.
While there is a piercing portfolio marked “Adult” that exclusively contains adult piercing examples, one artist apparently had one or two genital piercing examples in another general portfolio and it is not known even to the police which portfolio the girls supposedly were allowed to view.
The police had so little information and such a questionable story that I really think it likely they made it up just to harass us.
Staff members do not hand out artist portfolios to minors unless they have their parents or legal guardians present.
Browsers do not have their identification checked and staff members rely on the honesty of patrons unless they have reason to suspect they are in the office in violation of studio policy.
There has always been a sign on the entrance door stating our policy of prohibiting entrance to minors without a parent or legal guardian.
Minors (and adults) who disregard this policy are asked to leave.
There is a daily head count kept of how many people actually come through the door and it is not too many this time of year, perhaps 10 to 20 people in an 8 hour period.
All staff members agree that there were no minor girls, attended or unattended, in the office on any days following the holiday.
I was in the studio on all of those days and no one came in that didn't purchase services - with the exception of one couple who were turned away because they brought their baby with them.
There simply were no "teen girls".
In the spring and summer, the staff routinely turns away minors who attempt to receive services using false identification cards.
Adult and youth community members seem to feel that since "the LDS Church" claims that tattoos and piercings are a "desecration" and that all churches besides the Mormon Church are led by "the Devil", that disrespecting our rights and violating our policies are just fine.
Some Mormons here actually believe they are serving (their) God by breaking the law and violating our rights. Others simply don't care about rights or rules as long as they get what they want.
Well parents in Utah - don't shoot the messenger - many of your kids don't give a crap about your religion; they don't believe Gordon Hinkley is a Prophet; they don't respect you or your rules and they are likely following your bad example of bigotry and hypocrisy.
It is often impossible to ascertain someone’s age simply by appearance and there are likely many occasions where minors violate the posted policy restricting their entry.
To obtain service however, Government issued photo identification must be hand copied, then be validated in writing by two staff members and photocopied for a permanent record.
So while the occasional older-looking minor might slip into the studio, it is nearly impossible for them to fake their way through to receive service.
During the search one officer who appeared to be second in charge snidely asked, why, if a lack of respect for their personal and religious rights was such an affront, did the Lowrey’s choose to remain in Utah?
Reverend Lowrey replied that they had as much right to be in Utah and conduct their legal operations as anyone else - unmolested by a disrespectful public.
The Law protects those rights even though those entrusted to enforce the law often don't.
There was nothing in any of our materials that a minor could not be exposed to in any Jr. High School Art or Biology Textbook, Public Library, Art Gallery, Medical Office or Church that represented the unclothed human form in a clinical or artistic manner.
Photos in the Adult Piercing Portfolio depict the piercing process and genitalia with jewelry inserted as an example of services we render to adults and are neither sexual nor erotic in nature.
By the standards of the Utah Attorney General as examined on the official website, these photographs are instructional in nature and are no different than might be found in a sociological textbook or magazine such as National Geographic and appear according to Utah Law – decidedly not pornographic and would not be legally prohibited from minors anyway.
There are no photographs or art representations of the human form that depict sex acts or are designed to promote or appeal to prurient interest.
Studio prohibitions regarding minors as browsers are voluntary efforts by the ministry to serve the interests of the community and are not required by law.
The search and seizure warrant detailed “Items to be searched for include: Books containing photographs of male and female genital with piercings and tattoos, as well as any loose photos of the same nature.”
However the officers also seized personal, original artwork, some of a distinctly religious nature from the private work areas of several artists.
While there were two portfolios that did contain “photographs of male and female genital with piercings” there were none that contained genitals with tattoos and there were no loose photos of that nature.
Yet 11 books were seized - 9 of them “flash books” containing hundreds of drawings of a large variety of typical tattoo art, essentially non-sexual in nature and containing no photographs whatever.
These items; drawings and paintings and tattoo art “flash” books were not authorized in the search warrant and did not reflect “male and female genital with piercings and tattoos.” as the warrant described.
The artist’s personal portfolios are integral to prospective clients selecting their services and the taking of these portfolios which contained none of the material described in the warrant appears to me to indicate an effort to stifle opportunity.
The officers also searched the personal work stations of each staff member though none of them were in any public area, opening and searching every drawer and cabinet also searching the ministry’s service area and the parsonage even though it was obvious from the complaint that materials being sought were in the “public” reception area and not in the artist’s private work areas or the parsonage or other portions of the building.
I believe our church has been targeted by local Mormons and local Government.
I believe they engage in an active effort to undermine and slander our ministry and harass and prosecute us falsely (or threaten to prosecute us) with the end in mind to harass us till we leave town.
In three separate incidents in less than a year (today’s included) American Fork law enforcement has refused to apply the law equally in our behalf.
The police have attempted to prosecute us when we have been victims and have refused to prosecute those who have violated our civil rights.
The American Fork Police have blatantly lied about the application of law and refuse to provide police reports to the Ministry CEO
On one occasion officers refused to respond to an ongoing assault in the Ministry office because the CEO, who was involved by phone in the actual incident, was making the report from out of town.
On each occasion, these police officers have insisted that the dishonest, disrespectful and criminal behavior of American Fork locals was the Ministry’s fault simply because we perform tattoo and piercing services.
Our policies regulating the admission of minors to only those accompanied by their parents or legal guardians, which also prohibit babies and small children, are clearly posted.
The officers have, on each occasion - in person and by telephone, insisted that if the Ministry did not appreciate the disrespect and victimization at the hands of the government and the local citizenry that their solution should be - to “leave Utah”.
The officers have all maintained that the Ministry is engaged in what they term a “high risk” service and that attempts by local teens and sometimes even by their parents to exercise coercion, fraud and deceit to obtain services not allowed by law are seen as the fault of the Ministry rather than of those who show as much disrespect for State and local laws as they do for us.
On one occasion, Reverend Lowrey was told by Lt. Falslev that if he was not happy about being victimized that he “should engage in a low risk business like the guy who sells fruit across the street.” Reverend Lowrey went across the street and asked “the guy” about his experience and was told that he also was a constant victim of fraud and theft.
The problem is not with the Ministry offering legally approved services to the public in a responsible manner.
It is the public disrespect for our services which have for over 7 thousand years been exercised as a spiritual practice in all cultures.
The majority (Mormon) religion in Utah has recently taken upon itself to aggressively and slanderously attack these services as a “desecration” to the human body and an affront to “God” to such a degree that many Mormon Church leaders deny spiritual services, including temple marriage and communion for their own members who have tattoos and piercings, thus effectively denying their access to the Mormon Heaven because as of the year 2000, their God only approves of one piercing in each ear (for women only) and no tattoos for anyone.
The Mormon "God" apparently allows tattooed permanent make-up and apparently makes no distinction between propriety for male vs. female in that department as well as approving plastic surgery, for which Utah has the highest number of plastic surgeons in the country.
As this county is about 97% Mormon, this kind of slander is especially effective and the criminality of the “good Mormons” of American Fork have cost honest, hardworking members of the community their jobs and have jeopardized the livelihoods and damaged the reputations of many Mormon and Non-Mormon individuals and families.
Even the Attorney General points out that abstaining from engaging those services that are found offensive is the appropriate practice, but locals seem to feel that their personal disdain legitimizes their dishonest efforts.
I consider this behavior hypocritical, disgusting and a reprehensible violation of the both the Constitutions of the United States and Utah and worst of all of the “Christianity” this community supposedly holds so dear and claims to exclusively represent.
As if Utah didn’t have enough to be ashamed of already!

2 comments:

  1. It later was revealed that the "unknown officer" referred to in paragraph one was the Chief of Police, Lance Call.

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