ustxtxb_obs_2004_05_21_50_00005-00000_000.pdf

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the early 1990s. The Sunday after The Wall Street Journal ran a story about the satanic business, it was the subject of sermons in almost every church in the county. The couple was invited to leave town. And there was the time in 1996, shortly after the grand opening of the new Burleson High School, that a group of parents asked the school district to install a giant pair of red gym shorts on the anatomically correct statue of an elk in the school’s foyerlest the sight inspire their youngsters to have sex. That one made the Dallas/Fort Worth news. A year later, a small group of curse-averse residents demanded that the Burleson school board ban books and plays that contain “dirty words.” Among the would-be book banners: Arlene Wohlgemuth. “I have never read To Kill a Mockingbird,” Wohlgemuth declared during one contentious school board meeting, “but, if it has those words in it, it doesn’t belong in our schools:’ None of this attention, however, quite prepared Johnson County for what happened when word got out that a Burleson mother had been arrested for selling a pair of penis-shaped dildos. If that wasn’t scandal enough, shortly thereafter a wellrespected Republican Texas House candidate was exposed as a cross-dresser just days before the April primary runoff election. 1 f the Burleson Talibaptists have a spiritual leader, it’s Rev. Gloria Gillaspie. A small blonde woman with big hair and bright makeup in the Tammy Faye tradition, Gillaspie founded and preaches at Burleson’s Lighthouse now a behemoth of yellow brick started out as a Christian teen club in the 1980s, and became one of the largest churches in the city. Gillaspie also serves as pastor, political advisor, and unofficial campaign manager for Arlene Wohlgemuth, who is currently running for Congress in the newly drawn 17th Congressional District. \(Calls for comment from Wohlgemuth for this Gillaspie, a Burleson city council member who regularly voices his concerns about the “moral issues” of the city. As the Observer went to press, he was campaigning for mayor for the May 15th municipal elections. Gillaspie’s son-in-law, Cory Smithee, was running for a seat on the council. Gillaspie insiders can be found currently serving on the council and school board as well as almost every Republican committee, city advisory board, and school program in Burleson, including the Chamber of Commerce. “Gloria or Arlene, that’s a chicken-and-egg deal, isn’t it?” says Ken Shetter, who is running against Stuart Gillaspie for Burleson mayor. Shetter has invited the ire of Gillaspie’s crew of moralizers for his support of a May 15th referendum that would allow bars and restaurants in Burleson to serve alcohol. The catalyst for the dildo scandal that is rocking Johnson County these days appears to have been Gillaspie’s daughter, Shanda Perkins. \(A recent gag order by a local judge has largely silenced those involved, but when the story first broke, media outlets all over the world told the tale and had fun at At the center of the storm are Joanne and Chris Webb. Their problems began at the Burleson Chamber of Commerce. Chris Webb was a homebuilder at the time. Despite being among the Chamber’s more tireless volunteers and evangelical Christians to boot, the Webbs apparently didn’t fit the image that Perkins and like-minded Chamber members decided the town’s residents ought to convey. What was their crime? Looking sexy public displays of affection. Joanne, an attractive blonde with long, wavy hair and great legs, wears miniskirts most of the time. At 43, she looks good in them and likes to show it. Chris Webb is known to sport cutoff jean shorts with his work boots and sometimes can be spotted jogging on the streets of Burleson in Speedo swim trunks. The couple, who have been married for more than 20 years and have three kids, apparently find each other attractive and aren’t ashamed of it. And as if wearing miniskirts and being cute weren’t enough, Joanne Webb did something really audacious in June 2003, when she became a Passion Party consultant and registered her new business with the Chambereven planning an official ribbon cutting. Some members, including Perkins, complained to Chamber officials and boycotted the ceremony. In December of that year, concerned about the city’s image and determined to keep the Webbs from looking too sexy, Perkins and other like-minded members petitioned the Chamber’s board to adopt a dress code for members that restricts skirt lengths to no more than three inches above the knee. Perkins says she is not giving media interviews now because “I’m very active, politically, and I campaign for many candidates and I wouldn’t want this to reflect on them.” She is, she noted, Wohlgemuth’s campaign chairman for Burleson. Gloria Gillaspie did not answer half a dozen messages for this story. Rev. Gillaspie did tell Reuters news service, however, that she has met and counseled some women who had talked to Webb about the products she sold. “It was causing problems with their marriages,” Gillaspie said. The Webbs also were dropped from the membership of two Burleson churches, Gillaspie informed Reuters. “They didn’t want to comply with what was really Christian conduct and that is why they were asked to leave those churches,” she said. In at least one of those cases, the pastor of the church where Chris Webb had been a popular Sunday school teacher for eight yearstold Joanne that either she had to tone down her clothes or the family would have to leave the church. They left. According to Joanne Webb’s statements to the media, Perkins’ animosity toward her was well known. After some research, one self-appointed moralist found Chapter 43 of the Texas Criminal Code, in which a statute on indecency forbids continued on page 16 5/21/04 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 5