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|NUMBER 202||THE NEWSPAPER OF EDUCATION RIGHTS||NOVEMBER 2002|
No Muzzle for Miss America|
OAKBROOK TERRACE, IL - At a press conference on Oct. 9, Miss America 2003, Erika Harold, announced that beauty pageant officials will allow her to speak out on abstinence as part of her "violence prevention" platform during her reign. Miss Harold successfully stood on a platform of abstinence-until-marriage during her state and local pageant competitions over the past four years, carrying her message to thousands of teens across Illinois. She says she is "happy" that she'll be permitted to do so on a national level as Miss America.
The crown had barely settled on Miss Harold's lovely head before pageant officials attempted to muzzle her on the topic of sexual abstinence. At a press conference in Washington, DC just two weeks after winning the title, Miss Harold told reporters that she had been ordered not to speak publicly on the subject. "Quite frankly, there are pressures from some sides to not promote abstinence," she told the Washington Times (10-9-02), adding that "I will not be bullied."
She referenced an email from a Chicago student that she said reinforced her determination to continue promoting abstinence despite the Miss America or-ganization's objections. "You changed my life because of what you said," the girl wrote. "And I really hope that as Miss America you continue to share that because it changed my life and I think it can change lots of others."
At her Oct. 9 press conference, Miss Harold observed that pageant officials hadn't realized the extent of her abstinence advocacy in the past. She noted that it would be "a disservice" to the thousands of young people who have heard her message "to be silent on the issue." The internet journal Illinois Leader reported Oct. 18 that Erika plans to continue promoting her platform. "I will resign from Miss America rather than be forced to be a hypocrite," she said.
An Oct. 10 letter of congratulations to Miss Harold, signed by 38 U.S. Representatives, stated that "as Members of Congress who have presided over the successful implementation of federal abstinence-until-marriage education programs, we know how important it is to speak publicly and honestly about the emotional and physical risks and dangers facing our nation's youth and the promises and opportunities that come with abstinence-until-marriage." The letter urged the new Miss America "to stand strong in your commitment and your willingness to stand up for your beliefs and promote the healthy message of abstinence until marriage."