Oklahoma Town's Morality Ordinance Prohibits V-Day Dance

City council won't vote to repeal until after the holiday
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 10, 2017 6:36 AM CST

(Newser) – In a scene that seems straight out of Footloose, a small town has cancelled a dance simply because it was to be held 300 feet from a church. Henryetta, Okla., is a town of roughly 5,500 people 60 miles south of Tulsa, and had planned a Valentine's Day dance at Rosie LaVon's Marketplace for the upcoming holiday, reports Courthouse News. Then Robbie Kinney asked a question. She tells KTUL she had family who wanted to attend, but she was aware of the old city "morality" ordinance outlawing dancing within 500 feet of a church and asked on Facebook if it had been repealed. It hadn't. Even though the city's police chief tells ABC News he has no "interest in enforcing it," the organizer—whose husband is the city's attorney—canceled the dance.

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If this all sounds familiar, it should: The movie Footloose is based on Elmore City, which is also in Oklahoma, about a 2-hour drive from Henryetta. For 82 years after the town was incorporated in 1898, a city ordinance forbade dancing; they could shout, but not twist, as Tulsa World put it. Over in Henryetta, dance organizer Joni Insabella, who'd already hired a DJ and lights, was accused of getting special treatment because of her husband. "It just started a terrible firestorm," she tells USA Today. Still, she's hoping that when the city council votes on whether to uphold the old ordinance on Feb. 22, she'll find she's able to host an Elvis dance. "We're just some dancing rebels down here," she says. (See why Vietnam weighed banning dancing.)

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