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Battle of the Butts: New York Church Takes Issue with Billboard Ad

When the folks at the Times Square Church in New York City learned that a giant billboard featuring six naked butts was going to be erected on their building, they were not thrilled. In fact, they were downright indignant. So they've gone to court to try to stop the billboard company from desecrating their building with derrieres.

The ads are for the TOTO Corporation, a Japanese company which has come to the US to sell Americans their high-tech toilets which, by the way, are already in half the homes here in Japan. These "Washlets" pamper your rear with water and heat and give your bottom a new lease on life. So their new ad campaign featuring naked butts with smiley faces on them seemed to be a natural.

But the church is having none of it. Henry Bergman, the lawyer for the church, tried to make the argument that since Times Square has changed its image from what was once the seediest location in the city to the more "family-oriented" place that it is today, the billboard would be out of place. Neil Rhodes, the assistant pastor at the church, argued that the billboard would "degrade it in the eyes of its congregation," and the church's court filing claims that it is "antithetical to the values of our congregation and church."

Now, just to be clear, the billboard will NOT be erected on a church building, but rather on the side of the office building in which the church happens to reside. Lawyers for the billboard company have reacted by saying that the church "is not entitled — under the plain terms of its lease or the common law of nuisance it invokes — to dictate the contents of the advertisements that appear on the building it occupies."

Now I don't know about you, but I don't have a problem with naked butts. In fact, a well-formed naked butt staring down at me from a billboard might even brighten my day. It seems that naked bottoms have, indeed, become more prevalent and more acceptable in the mainstream media. It's also true, I suspect, that a billboard in which the models were turned around would have no chance of ever seeing the light of day. So what is it exactly that makes the view from the back more acceptable than the view from the front?

In any event, Judge Marcy S. Friedman has granted the church a temporary restraining order and prohibited the billboard from going up until she studies the matter further. Of course, the whole thing is a bonus for TOTO, giving them a ton of free publicity for their snappy new toilets.

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