New Miss America Will Not Be Bullied

(AgapePress) - The new Miss America has won her battle with pageant officials to speak out publicly in favor of abstinence.

In her capacity as a spokeswoman for Project Reality, Erika Harold has advocated and promoted sexual abstinence for years, including during her reign as Miss Illinois. The non-profit group has pioneered abstinence-centered health education programs in Illinois' public schools since the mid-1980s. But controversy arose recently during a media appearance.

And at the National Press Club in October, as pageant officials tried to prevent reporters from asking questions about her abstinence message, Miss Harold said: "I will not be bullied." Also in that interview, she said while she was not going to be specific, she admitted "there are pressures from some sides not to promote [abstinence]."

At that time, pageant officials declined to make a statement about the controversy. But after "intense discussions" during a trip to Washington, George Bauer-chief executive for the Miss America Pageant-removed the restriction, thereby permitting the new Miss America to talk about sexual abstinence as part of her youth-violence prevention platform.

"I don't think the pageant organizers really understood how much I am identified with the abstinence message," the 22-year-old pre-law student told reporters.

As one Christian leader put it: "In an age where beauty queens are regularly disqualified for inappropriate behavior, who would have thought a virtuous one would be silenced for her virtue?"

The Family Research Council's Genevieve Wood had called pageant officials' reticence to allow the new Miss America to address the issue a prime example of political correctness. "If Miss Harold's platform was about the hazards of smoking, most likely there wouldn't be any protest," Wood said.

Both of those pro-family groups cited the importance of the sexual-abstinence message during a time when the incidence of unwed births, abortions, and sexually transmitted diseases among teens is on the rise.

Miss Harold gave credit yesterday to The Washington Times for bringing her dispute into the public, a move that eventually led pageant officials to back away from their efforts to muzzle her Christian views on morality.

Miss Harold says it was her Christian faith that helped her to promote teen abstinence when she was campaigning for Miss Illinois.

"I think my faith played most into it by giving me the courage to stand up for that, because I think young people are faced with so many difficult times and difficult options-and they need people who have the courage to stand up for what they believe in and say, 'This is my personal commitment. I believe you have the courage and the power to make the same one.' "

Miss Harold says if she does not continue to speak out now as Miss America, she will be disappointing thousands of young people who need assurance that waiting until marriage is the right thing to do.

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