Miami-Dade is perhaps a bit more free-spirited than most American beach towns by designating a small sliver of Haulover Beach for nude sunbathing, but for Thomas Wittbold that wasn't enough. Wittbold sued Miami-Dade County, alleging that not allowing him to be nude elsewhere in Haulover Park was infringing on his constitutional right to practice his religion, "Naturism."
A federal judge, however, has shut him down.
Nudists are allowed to let it all hang out in a small strip of Haulover Beach. The view from the road is blocked by thick trees, and the area is mostly fenced off from the rest of the beach. The beach is maintained by the South Florida Free Beaches/Florida Naturist Association. Volunteers for the organization make sure that people obey the rules and stay in the designated area. However twice, once in 1991 and more recently in 2012, Wittbold was warned by reps for the group when he wandered out in the nude into other parts of the beach. They told him he could be arrested and go to jail.
According to Courthouse News, Wittbold claimed the SFFB/FNA was a subordinate of the county, and sued both entities and two individuals. He claimed that the rules were a "deliberate indifference to his constitutional right to freely exercise his religion."
Federal Judge Marcia G. Cooke was not hearing it. Literally, she dismissed the case on June 27th. She claimed the suit was "a cacophony of irrelevant facts, biblical quotations and personal opinions that fail to state any cause of action."
Cooke also concluded in a rather terse sentence that, "there is no First Amendment right to sunbathe nude." Cooke cited several other cases that came to the same conclusion.
Wittbold and his fellow nudists will remain constrained to their section of Haulover Beach. By Miami standards, if they want to travel elsewhere on the beach they'll at least have to put on a g-string.
Keep Miami New Times Free... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Miami with no paywalls.