Joy mixed with shock captures Palmetto Family’s response to the recent closing of Taboo, a pornographic product store in Columbia.

Fans of the original Back to the Future will remember 1985 Marty showing up at Dr. Emmett L. Brown’s house in 1955 and showing him The Flux Capacitor.

Doc Brown’s response is a movie classic: “It works! It works! I finally invented something that works!”

The unmitigated joy mixed with shock of that statement captures Palmetto Family’s response to the recent closing of Taboo, a pornographic product store in Columbia.

I’ll never forget that day in December 2011 when our phones began to ring. A former Taco Bell on the major thoroughfare of Devine Street was being painted garish colors and a sign had appeared in front reading “Taboo Adult Superstore.”

Palmetto Family had been working against adult businesses for years, so we weren’t shocked, but this one was particularly horrible. Unlike similar businesses with worse names in Myrtle Beach, Taboo had not chosen a frontage road or an industrial area. This was Devine Street, with its high ends shops, Fort Jackson, and family-friendly neighborhoods like Shandon, Gills Creek, Governor’s Grant and Hampton Hills.

I called Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin. He was livid. Is Taboo really in the city limits? How could such an establishment be legal in the city? What happened to zoning? What do we do now?

Fortunately, I knew what to do.

In the wars over the locations of sexually-oriented businesses, we had relied on the advice of a brilliant young attorney out of Chattanooga, Tennessee, L. Scott Bergthold, Esq.  Scott had helped Palmetto Family craft one of our “inventions” that didn’t work: a statewide adult business law. (Scott was brilliant, the South Carolina General Assembly wasn’t.)

Bergthold immediately went to work crafting a more comprehensive, modern, adult business ordinance for the City of Columbia. Under the leadership of Mayor Benjamin and the late Councilwoman Leona Plough, the ordinance got three quick readings. Columbia had made it clear, in a constitutionally defensible manner where adult businesses could operate and where they couldn’t. For Taboo, a two-year clock began to tick. When the owner lawyered up, that two-year clock turned into nearly six years, and went all the way to the Fourth Circuit US Court of Appeals in Richmond.

But as I write these words here in the summer of 2017, Taboo has removed its adult content and has become a novelty store. No more porn.

Now I must repent. The Emmett Brown “finally-something-works” reaction isn’t appropriate at all. By His grace, nearly fifty (50) of our specific PFC “inventions” to defend life, family, faith and religious freedom have indeed worked! Sometimes in our perfectionism and desire to win every fight, we see the handful of defeats, but miss the blessings that have rained down on our work.

The Taboo win is instructive. The Lord is still at work in our state and we are honored to be a part.


Epilogue: The Lord gives stamina during painful fights like this, but he also gives humor. As Mayor Steve Benjamin and his staff were poring over existing Columbia ordinances, Benjamin, looking for some comic relief, lamented that we came close to being able to get rid of Taboo with just a few letters of the ordinance changed. “Letters?” I asked. “Yes,” said the Mayor. “The existing ordinance says no adult businesses within a certain proximity of a church. Too bad it doesn’t say Church’s.”

There was a Church’s Fried Chicken next door to Taboo.

Dr. Oran Smith

Former President & CEO


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