The Supreme Judicial Court ruled today a Cambridge woman can face criminal charges for dancing nude in Harvard Square even if she was trying to exercise her First Amendment rights, in this case to protest the commercialization of Christmas, because of a state law banning nudity that "shocks and alarms" people.
Ria Ora was arrested on June 25 (the anti-Christmas?), 2005 on charges of "open and gross lewdness."
A lower court had ruled the arrest unconstitutional. In its decision, the Supreme Judicial Court agreed that people do have a right to take all their clothes down, but only if their displays are not "imposed upon an unsuspecting or unwilling audience" (so strip clubs are OK).
In the court's hearing on the case, the state argued that employees of the kiosk in Harvard Square expressed "shock and alarm" when they called police to report the woman (must've been new employees; who knew there was anything shocking left for Harvard Square?). And when justices asked how Ora's anti-Christmas protest was different from Lady Godiva's political ride, the assistant attorney general arguing the case said the difference was that everybody in the town knew Lady Godiva would be taking her ride and everybody averted their eyes except for that one Peeping Tom.
Watch the oral arguments in the case (requires Windows Media Player, but worth it if only to hear the highest court in the state discussing Lady Godiva).