Looking for a God time?

Hookers in Chicago are being offered money to listen to the gospel.

By Jack Boulware
Published April 20, 2000 4:00PM (EDT)

Hookers trolling for clients on the South Side of Chicago be warned: There's a new breed of vice squad cruising the streets.

Besides eyeing a potential john for telltale signs like a hidden gun or a police radio, prostitutes should also now watch out for a crucifix, maybe even one of those Christian fish bumper stickers.

Why? Because a Roman Catholic parish has gone undercover, talking up the gospel to sex workers and hoping to convert them into God-fearing citizens.

Two or three nights a week, 25 to 30 members of St. Sabina's Church split up into teams to cover the city. (Some might say it's an uphill battle, especially on the South Side.) Working in groups of three, the volunteer crusaders offer prostitutes their usual rates, for up to an hour, to hear about Jesus and the Bible (a titillating read in and of itself).

But unlike many police vice squads, members of this group wait until they are formally propositioned for sex before making their moves.

"We ask them how much they charge, and then we tell them we don't want sex," says the Rev. Michael Pfleger, pastor of St. Sabina's. "We want to buy a little of their time for sharing our faith."

According to the International Herald Tribune, Pfleger's battalion from the pope's army chalked up 37 "concrete interventions" in its first week of operation. A potpourri of street hustlers, prostitutes and drug dealers took the time to listen to the streetwalking Bible thumpers. Of this motley crew, St. Sabina's says, 10 actually showed up to celebrate Mass and six others are taking steps to change their lives.

Pfleger is known for his unorthodox campaigns against crime and drug use. Three years ago he successfully pushed for City Council bans on tobacco and liquor billboard advertising.

Next thing you know, he'll try to rehabilitate the Chicago Cubs. Somebody should.

Jack Boulware

Jack Boulware is a writer in San Francisco and author of "San Francisco Bizarro" and "Sex American Style."

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