Saintly in St. Chuck

The Lord's county executive plans to cleanse his county's Family Arena

Joe Ortwerth has accepted another mission, and just in time.

Ortwerth is the St. Charles county executive who has proclaimed repeatedly that he entered politics (and ran last year for lieutenant governor) at the calling of the Lord. Now, he has been called again -- by a divinely inspired County Council -- to keep the faith against the faithless as a one-man moral cleanser for the St. Charles Family Arena.

The Council has given Ortwerth veto power over acts he finds offensive for the arena, an 11,000-seat publicly funded sports-and-concert chapel. Neither Satan nor the First Amendment is to compromise decency.

Recently the Family Arena was infested by the heavy-metal group Pantera, which Ortwerth termed -- on the official county Web site -- "a thoroughly rancid group which sings about the joys of raping women, killing cops, and committing suicide." This came on the heels of a nasty New Year's Eve rave-party event that resulted in 24 arrests.

In Ortwerth's words -- soon to be released in tablet form -- "the Family Arena was built to serve as an auditorium for family-friendly entertainment, not as a circus of sleaze or a forum for malevolent mayhem.

"This administration remains committed to building a county with character, rather than endorsing hateful conduct," Ortwerth wrote. "We will continue to work to see the Family Arena is a blessing to families of our county, rather than a curse on our community."

Hear, hear! As Ortwerth has asked: "How many more Columbines have to occur before we stand up to people without conscience in the entertainment media who profit by inciting perverse passions in our young people?"

That's right, would-be sinners: No more "inciting perverse passions" at the St. Charles Family Arena. It must be returned to its mission as "a venue for entertainment which would be appropriate for the entire family."

It's a good thing the Lord's servant is on the case now. It turns out that unless he acts quickly, another circus of sleaze will be coming to town.

I speak of the "Blast from the Past" show, featuring such thoroughly rancid groups as the Ozark Mountain Daredevils, the Byrds and the Grass Roots. It's scheduled for March 30, unless Ortwerth comes to the rescue.

Starting with the Daredevils -- tell me Satan doesn't love that name -- you've got a signature hit that screams out the following:

"IF YOU WANT TO GET TO HEAVEN, YOU'VE GOT TO RAISE A LITTLE HELL!"

Now there's a fine message for the county's young people. Is that "entertainment appropriate for the entire family?"

Then there's the Byrds, a legendary group, yes, but one that was linked to immoral drug use in the past. When they take the stage, thousands of impressionable young people still go wild to such tunes as "Eight Miles High," one of the first songs to be widely banned from commercial radio in the 1960s for its presumed allusions to LSD.

It can be reported, blessedly, that the members of the Byrds proclaim themselves to be born-again Christians, and they've always maintained the song was a misunderstood ballad about an airplane trip. They can't be blamed if millions of hippies and assorted drug users mistook their innocent song to be the national anthem of psychedelic rock.

Trouble is, when the children of St. Charles County are incited by the intoxicating sounds of "Eight Miles High," will they really know that the words "eight miles high and when you touch down, you'll find that it's stranger than known" were meant to be sung by the entire family on Southwest Airlines?

Finally, the Grass Roots didn't have their stuff banned, but do you want the whole family to hear the unfiltered lyrics of "Temptation Eyes"? "Temptation eyes looking through my-my-my soul/Temptation eyes, you got to love me/Got to love me tonight/Her wild-eyed innocence is just a game/But just the same my head is spinnin'/She's got a way to keep me on her side/It's just a ride that's never ending/Tonight with me she'll be so exciting/I want her all for myself."

OK, so the rock star who wants her all for himself is probably pushing 60. That doesn't make it right to be singing sexually suggestive lyrics and deriding innocence in a family arena in a county where the county executive ordered public health clinics not to fill birth-control prescriptions for minors.

We can only hope that Ortwerth -- a man who has long maintained that teaching abstinence is the only appropriate message for the schools -- will at the very least demand that the Grass Roots change their lyrics to "Temptation eyes, you cannot love me, cannot love me till you're my wife."

After all, Ortwerth has proclaimed that performances at the arena must "not advocate hate, violence, suicide, or the sexual degradation of women and children." Certainly he'll defend women with the same passion he did 10 years ago as a state legislator, when he sponsored a bill to ban all abortions unless a circuit judge ruled that a woman's life was in danger.

And as for cracking down on performances that advocate violence, well, we can only hope that Ortwerth doesn't wait long before he demands that the River Otters, the arena's pro-hockey team, make their games fight-free.

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