Sinners and Saint Onuphrius

Friends of San Onofre, the “naturist” enthusiasts trying to stop the California Parks Department from banning nudity on a remote, 1,000-foot stretch of San Onofre State Beach's 28,000-foot shoreline, like to point out that San Onofre is the Spanish name of Saint Onuphrius Magnus, who lived about 400 A.D. in Christian Egypt, “naked in the desert as a hermit and confessor.”

Onuphrius – known as Onofrio to Italians, Abü Nufar to Arabs and Onofre to the Spanish and Portuguese – has been honored at the Trail 6 nude beach on his June 12 feast day. “It is said that the Saint intercedes when a good festival happens, thus ensuring that the June gloom will go away, the surf will be excellent, and the sun will shine,” according to the Friends of San Onofre website.

Bringing gloom to the bare naked ladies and gentlemen these days is state Parks Director Ruth Coleman, who in May ordered the nudity ban that is scheduled to go into effect after Labor Day, although the Naturists Action Committee has filed a lawsuit to stop that action.

In Coleman's message that directed San Onofre park rangers to begin informing the public about the ban on June 1, she stated that “Trail 6 has a history of attracting criminal activity,” citing figures that park officers have issued 82 citations for lewd behavior and 35 citations for indecent exposure over the past five years.

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In a April 29 memorandum to his boss Coleman, Southern Division Chief Tony Perez revealed that the Parks Department had “secured support” for the nudity ban from the Orange County Sheriff's Department, San Diego County Sheriff's Department, San Diego County's District Attorney, U.S. Fish and Game wardens and the Camp Pendleton's Provost Marshall's Office and military police.

But Friends of San Onofre president Allen Baylis, who is also a lawyer, naturist and just-announced Huntington Beach City Council candidate, swears that it is not the practicing nudists who create all the law-enforcement problems. If anything, the naturists help shoo away law-breakers and inform rangers of evil doers.

One state government document reinforces that Friends of San Onofre assistance: the Parks Department report Coleman apparently relied on before imposing the nudity ban.

“Members and supporters of this club will often educate persons, who appear to be soliciting others for lewd activity or actually engaged in sexual activity, about California law and departmental regulations concerning illegal sex acts in public and nudity,” states the report, which adds that despite these efforts, “the lewd acts and indecent exposure continue to be common and frequent.”

So someone's gotta ask: If the people alerting rangers to the lawlessness are driven away, who will be left to rat out the bad guys and gals?

More of the naked truth about the battle over Trail 6 appears in my story “Suits vs. Skins,” which hits the streets and this website Thursday.

Perhaps the spirit of Saint Onuphrius will ultimately descend from the heavens to help the naturists -- so long as everyone ignores his adoption in the puritanical West by weavers who renamed him Saint Humphrey the Great and covered up his naughty bits with fig leaves.

Suppose Ruth Coleman's a weaver?


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