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"I do believe that Tom cares about kids and believes there are problems with the basics of education today. And we certainly have to take care of those. But my feeling has always been that that is as far as he believes education should go."
A former colleague remembers that Smith was once the only member of the Scottsdale School Board who voted to retain corporal punishment. In this way and others, he was so out of synch with the more moderate majority view that it was generally acknowledged he would be passed over for the board presidency, according to this observer, who says, "It was really clear that nobody was going to vote for Tom." Smith has also rubbed local gay activists the wrong way. Mark Freeze, an attorney who lobbied at the legislature last year on behalf of a bill seeking the repeal of the state's sodomy statutes, remembers that Smith scolded his fellow legislators after they had passed the bill out of the House Judiciary Committee. "He said, 'How could Arizona do this when Arizona is supposed to be a Christian state?'" recounts Freeze. "Which I thought showed a remarkable lack of sensitivity to the framers of the American Constitution, who said there was no such thing as a Christian state." (Ultimately, the bill failed.)
These are some things that onlookers say about Smith. What does he have to say for himself?
When asked about the sources from which he drew when composing his letter to Kunz, Smith explains, "I have gotten some pamphlets and information about AIDS." Who wrote these pamphlets?
"I do not have them here in my hand," he explains.
Can you get them?
"I don't know if I can," he says. "I don't know if I want to. . . . All I know is that I wrote the man [Kunz]; I told him my opinion."
But you didn't couch your statistics as opinions: You said you had gathered "facts." And much of your letter reads like a moralistic judgment.
"I am a moral individual," says Smith. "Do you object to my being a moral individual?"
I think AIDS is a health issue, not a moral issue.
"Well, then, that is your opinion. Tell me this: Do you think that AIDS is transmitted through homosexual activity?"
Tell me this: As an educator, have you perceived a need for AIDS education in schools?
"Probably not below the seventh or eighth grades. In the seventh or eighth grade, I think it is a parent's decision. I think it never should be mandatory."
Perhaps the most amazing fact of all about HIV is that in light of government projections that one out of every 250 persons in the U.S. is infected, the advisability of education and other prevention continues to be a controversy.