Loving your neighbors is all well and good, but a group of nuns isn’t in the mood for a block party and says the place that opened next to them – a strip club – has to go.
The Missionary Sisters of St. Charles Borromeo Scalabrinians, a Catholic order founded in Italy and devoted to migrants and refugees, is suing to close a strip club located right next to their convent in the village of Stone Park, about 20 miles west of Chicago’s downtown.
As neighbors of Club Allure, the nuns must not only endure loud, pulsating music and flashing neon lights from dusk to dawn that keep them awake, but they also witness drunken fighting, empty whiskey and beer bottles, used condoms and syringes scattered around the area, and “women patrolling the sidewalk and streets” nearby, according to the suit filed in Cook County Circuit Court against the club and Stone Park.
“It’s been hard, especially for our older sisters,” Sister Noemia Silva, 57, tells PEOPLE. “They’re at times fearful of going out.”
The sisters, along with some other neighbors, contend that the club is a nuisance and operating illegally because state law dictates that adult entertainment businesses cannot be within 1,000 feet of a place of worship. In addition to serving as home to 22 nuns, the convent offers religious services open to the public.
“Why would you put it across the backyard fence from a convent?” says the nuns’ attorney, Tom Brejcha. “It doesn’t make sense.”
But the strip club, which opened about a year ago, counters that it is following all laws and the suit is more about a clash of ideological values.
“Our existence bothers their religious feelings,” Robert Itzgow, the club’s attorney, tells PEOPLE. Saying that it provides both local jobs and taxes, the club is a boon to the area, he said, adding, “Anything we do in there is far more artistic than explicit.”
Sister Noemia isn’t buying it. “It goes against everything we believe in,” she says.
Meanwhile, Stone Park is fighting the lawsuit on technical grounds, saying the 1,000-foot law is unconstitutional, though even its attorney, Dean Krone, tells PEOPLE that the case is “very unusual.”