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She isn't worried about the influence of the religious right, although, like Doyle, she doesn't attend church. But, she says, "I wouldn't mind having prayer in school. Our country was founded on a Judeo-Christian philosophy."
Badenoch likes the sex-education approach used by Crisis Pregnancy Center, a counseling program, because, she says, it deals with the emotional side of sex. Crisis Pregnancy Center's literature includes phrases like this one, directed at a girl who has had an abortion: "Pray and let Jesus know you have accepted Him and what has happened and that you know you are truly sorry. . . ."
Mike Doyle and his cohorts appear to be caught in a bind: They know that affiliating themselves with the religious right has stigmatized them, and yet such affiliations bring well-financed and organized support. And free legal representation.
The development that worries Renert and Braga the most is the emergence of the American Center for Law and Justice in the Scottsdale sex-ed debate.
Pat Robertson, who founded the Christian Coalition in 1989, founded the ACLJ in 1991. His goal is to educate Christians about the political process and, with the ACLJ, counter the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLJ reportedly has a budget of $10 million, funded primarily through Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network.
In the past few years, agencies like the ACLJ have been successful in getting prayer back into schools, winning the right of student religious groups to meet on campus and obtaining financial aid for certain students at religious schools.
Headquartered in Virginia Beach, Virginia, ACLJ now has offices in Washington, D.C.; Georgia; Alabama; Kentucky; and Ontario, Canada. Its Western regional office opened in north Phoenix in 1993. One of the lawyers based in Phoenix, Benjamin Bull, had previously served as general counsel for Donald Wildmon's American Family Association Law Center in Tupelo, Mississippi. In the late 1980s, Bull worked for Charles H Keating Jr.'s antipornography group, Citizens for Decency Through Law.
Earlier this year, Bull failed in his attempt to overturn federal law protecting access to abortion clinics. But he has represented a number of students, including one who engaged Bull's free services after being told she couldn't form an antiabortion club at Lake Havasu City High School. Once the lawsuit was filed, the school immediately backed off.
That's apparently ACLJ's modus operandi, according to a recent article in National Journal: "Critics of the ACLJ also accuse the group of intimidating its opponents by threatening costly litigation. Indeed, the group's own press releases underline its tough-guy image by promising that legal 'SWAT teams' will pounce on recalcitrant school boards and other foes."
When a Scottsdale elementary school principal confiscated Halloween party invitations being handed out by students at school because the party was to be held at a church, the students' parent, Don Dillon, wrote to school board members, ". . . . it will be my assumption that in the future there will be no more incidents like the one I mentioned at the beginning of this letter since 'school policy' is FAR and AWAY outweighed by CONSTITUTIONAL LAW. The ACLJ handles cases of religious harassment or discrimination FREE OF CHARGE. We're all college graduates--I don't think I need say any more." The letter was carbon-copied to the ACLJ in Virginia Beach and in Phoenix.
So far, Parents Who Care members have been moderately active in politics, opting not to run for school board but instead working on the campaigns of Governor Fife Symington, Superintendent of Public Instruction Lisa Graham, U.S. Representative John Shadegg and state Representative Tom Smith, who has attended their meetings, Doyle says. The group is in the process of conducting a public-opinion poll to see what the community wants. (A poll conducted in Tempe, before that city's high school district began rewriting its policy on sex ed, revealed that about 70 percent of those asked favored teaching about contraception in schools.)
Originally, Doyle says, Parents Who Care was intended to be a temporary consortium. Now it's in the process of obtaining tax-exempt status. This month, its breakfast meetings will be opened to the public. Doyle is compiling a library; in December, he put a notice on America Online looking for assistance in starting a national computer data base. Doyle says he's been in touch with people who share his concerns in New York, Los Angeles and Oregon. His phone bills are enormous. "We are not alone. This is happening in community after community after community." Doyle and other members of his organization are in the process of reviewing Scottsdale's 6-through-8 curriculum; they may ask for revisions. They will continue to push for an alternative abstinence-only program for the high school level. And then Parents Who Care intends to address issues far beyond sex education. Doyle strongly supports vouchers. He says, "Because we have not been, I guess, as mindful of what's been going on in the education field with the NEA [National Education Association] and that whole unionism crap that goes on, the whole educational community has moved considerably away from the community values of America."
Mike Doyle intends to do something about it.