Are there any religious voices in Nevada? Any at all?
That's my question after reading no shortage of news coverage concerning Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's call Tuesday for the outlawing of legal brothels in his home state's rural counties.
Here's the basic story, via the Las Vegas Review-Journal:
CARSON CITY -- U.S. Sen. Harry Reid wanted his call to outlaw legal brothels from Nevada's rural landscape to prompt an "adult conversation" among lawmakers about the state's notorious sex trade.
But what the Nevada Democrat got was an outcry of opposition from brothel owners and prostitutes looking to protect their livelihood and tepid responses from the legislators he asked to do the legal dirty work of running bordellos out of the state.
The gallery in the Assembly chambers went silent Tuesday when Reid paused for applause after he told lawmakers from both houses that "the time has come for us to outlaw prostitution."
Lawmakers from both major parties shied away from his suggestion that they could improve Nevada's beleaguered economy by driving brothels out of the state and inviting other businesses in.
Another chunk of the Review-Journal's story:
"This is a civil rights issue," said Dennis Hof, owner of the Moonlite BunnyRanch in Lyon County and several other brothels. "These women have a right to work. He should be proud of us. We have a clean industry."
Suzette Colette Cole, who works as a madam at the BunnyRanch, said Reid's remarks "cut like a knife."
"What are all those girls going to do?" she asked. "Go out on the streets like in Las Vegas? Is that what he wants them to do?"
Prostitute Felicia Fox accused Reid of hypocrisy because he wants to put legal prostitutes out of work, while calling in the same speech for reviving Nevada's economy.
But amid all the politicians and prostitutes, the Review-Journal includes the perspective of not a single priest or pastor. Am I the only one interested in knowing whether Nevada religious leaders -- many of whom defend the state's gambling industry -- feel the same way about the world's oldest profession? Or do they back Reid's call for an end to brothels?
Most of the news stories don't even mention Reid's own religious affiliation. The AP story does identify him as a Mormon, and the Wall Street Journal -- to its credit -- includes this context up high:
Mr. Reid maintains conservative Mormon values personally but has long tolerated Nevada's legal sin industries and is a powerful advocate for casino firms. In gatherings, he often tells audiences how his mother washed laundry for the brothel in Searchlight, the small town Mr. Reid grew up in outside Las Vegas.
Political observers said they believed his remarks were the first time he had spoken out on the topic. "This is a complete shock," said Barbara Brents, a professor at University of Nevada, Las Vegas, who has studied the state's prostitution industry and said she had discussed it with Mr. Reid.
Meanwhile, reporters pressed Reid on why he chose to focus on brothels and not other Nevada "sins." From the Las Vegas Sun:
Asked whether Nevada has bigger image problems -- the legal, highly visible adult businesses on the Strip, provocative ad campaigns by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority -- he said he was just focused on the legal brothels.
Many in the Legislature questioned Reid's timing, and few of Reid's confidants could say why he chose to pick a fight now against an industry that was one of the economic engines of his hometown.
Two close advisers to Reid said he sincerely believes prostitution is an impediment to Nevada being taken seriously. One source said his staff tried to talk him out of including it in the speech, and there is little indication he or his staff will work to push legislation outlawing prostitution.
Yes, this is a political story. Yes, it's an economic story. But isn't it a religion story, too?
Are there any religious voices in Nevada?