During the seven years (1995-2002) I pastored Our Father’s House in West Unity, Ohio, I waged several crusades against those who ran afoul of my Fundamentalist moral code. One such crusade took place in June of 1997.
Williams County is located in the far Northwest corner of Ohio, bordered to north by Michigan and to the west by Indiana. The Ohio Turnpike runs through the northern part of the county. Travelers exiting on Route 15 (Exit Two) find several motels and restaurants. Being a three-hour straight shot from Chicago — with lots of car and truck traffic — Exit Two was an ideal place to locate a house of ill repute.
One day I was out and about and I noticed that there was a new business at Exit Two — The Queen Spa. Owned by Korean families from Chicago and Toledo, the massage parlor featured women of Far Eastern ethnicity. Once I ascertained that this new business was actually a front for prostitution, I morphed into Pastor Bruce the Moral Crusader and set my sights on putting the Exit Two whore house out of business.
The first thing I did was write a letter to the editor of The Bryan Times. In the letter, I alleged that the massage parlor was actually a house of prostitution. I called on the Williams County Sheriff to immediately investigate and close down the massage parlor. Christopher Cullis, the editor of the Times, called and told me that he could not print my letter as written. Since none of the massage parlor workers had been arrested and charged with prostitution, Cullis asked me to remove from my letter the prostitution allegation. Cullis’ request, at the time, irritated the heaven out of me, but I now know that he was trying to shelter me (and the paper) from legal liability in the event the prostitution claim proved to be false. (If I remember right, the Times was running weekly ads for the Queen Spa.)
I also decided to make sure that EVERY pastor in Williams County, along with every licensed massage therapist and elected official, knew that a massage parlor had set up shop at Exit Two. I sent out a hundred or so letters, hoping that the recipients would join me in forcing the Sheriff to close down the parlor. A total of five pastors responded to my letter, and only one of them was willing to join me on the front line of Bruce’s battle against prostitution.
A week or so later, the phone rang and Sheriff Al Word was on the other end of the line. Hmm, perhaps he got my letter, I thought. He did, and boy was he NOT happy with me. Unbeknownst to me, The Williams County Sheriff’s Department, in conjunction with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, was running an undercover sting operation, hoping to arrest the massage parlor owners and workers. Since this was an ongoing operation, the Sheriff asked — in a voice that said, I’m telling you, STOP IT! — if I would PLEASE ratchet down my crusade against the massage parlor. And if you will do so, the Sheriff said, you can go along with us when we make the arrests. I quickly said yes.
The Sheriff called me the night before the arrests and told me to meet him at the motel across the highway from the massage parlor. The Sheriff and the Bureau of Criminal Investigation had set up shop in a room that allowed them to observe the front door of the parlor. At the appointed time, officers entered the parlor, making two arrests — Korean prostitutes aged 45 and 52. One woman was charged with promoting prostitution and the other was charged with solicitation. Law enforcement seized numerous items, including unused condoms, $5,000 cash, credit cards, checks, and food stamps. Yes, several “customers” had paid with checks and food stamps.
At the time of the arrests, Sheriff Word said, “The goal was not arrests. The goal is to get it [the massage parlor] out. We don’t want that here.” Thanks to Sheriff Word, the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, and Pastor Bruce, the Moral Crusader, the Queen Spa was no more. I thought, at the time, that I had won a great victory for Jesus. Sadly, I didn’t give a moment’s thought to the women who were arrested. I regret that I was more concerned with maintaining an air of moral superiority than wondering why these older women were working as prostitutes. Both women looked much older than their age. Drugs? Forced to prostitute themselves? Whatever the reason, all that mattered to me was making a public stand against immorality.