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Indignant, ain’t-it-awful writing is a great way to renew one’s sense of the comedy we are performing together. I shall have to do more of it.

Churchly Chutzpah

OF ORGANIZATIONS DEPENDENT ON WOMEN, churches are second only to maternity wards. Therefore it has always struck me as a bit peculiar that churches are in the forefront of organizations that openly and unabashedly discriminate against women. Two strong examples have recently been in the news. The Pope, on his visit to America, made it quite clear that he opposed any further participation by women in the conduct of mass; and Sonia Johnson, a member of the Mormon church, has been excommunicated by that church for her public advocacy of the Equal Rights Amendment. (To forestall any letters on the subject, let me say that I know she was charged with apostasy, not with supporting the ERA. But that is simply the equivalent of saying that Al Capone went to prison for income tax evasion. Apostasy is what happens when a church tells you to quit doing something, and you go right on doing it.)

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A friend of mine said he was happy to see that any church had strong enough standards, no matter how misguided, to allow it to excommunicate someone. He said that his church was incapable of any such definitive action. I don’t feel that way at all. I believe that the only thing that protects us from the churches, all churches, is their weakness and diffusiveness. Church organizations have a remarkable propensity for being on the wrong side of every issue. Who else, in an overpopulated, starving world, would be against birth control, for instance? If any church were strong enough, a modernized Inquisition would be controlling our lives today. That Moslem organizations share these inclinations for poor judgment on secular matters, for becoming dangerous when powerful, and for discrimination against women is amply illustrated in present-day Iran.

But I am straying from the subject of the curious discrimination against women in churches. I was particularly struck by an article in the Washington Post by Eleanor Ricks Colton, President of the Washington, D.C. Stake Relief Society of the Mormon Church. In defending the position of her church against Sonia Johnson, she writes, “I know of no church that gives women the leadership responsibilities or opportunities to develop that the Mormon Church does…. Many of its most important auxiliaries [emphasis added] are almost completely staffed and led by women…. It is true that Mormon women do not hold the priesthood. So far as we know, neither did women hold it during Christ’s ministry.”

To take the last argument first, that is similar to the one used by the Catholic Church to deny its women members the opportunity to become priests. Their wording is a little different, something like “insufficient similarity to Christ,” but the intent – to keep women out – is the same. I don’t recall anything in Christ’s ministry about a woman being president of a Relief Society of the Mormon Church, or for that matter anything at all about the Mormon Church. And I’m not sure that the Pope bears any noticeable similarity to Christ. But anyway those are the kinds of arguments used when one holds the power and doesn’t really care if anyone believes the arguments. There is no real attempt at logic or persuasion, but merely contemptuous hornswoggling.

Ms. Colton is singularly uninformed if she does not know of any church that gives women greater responsibilities than she claims for the Mormon Church. There are a number of church organizations that have no legal restrictions whatsoever against women, and women do become ministers, presidents, moderators, or whatever of these churches. I could not help but be struck by the term auxiliaries in her article. That one word destroys her argument. I would not consider belonging to any organization that discriminated against men. I would not belong to any organization that relegated men to the “auxiliaries.” Why do women?

I have to believe that women deserve the treatment they are given by their churches. It would be so easy for them to change the situation. They would not have to fight their church administrators or march in demonstrations. All they would have to do is quit attending and quit insisting that their families attend. Within six weeks the priests, pastors, and ministers would be talking to empty seats, the collection plates would be bare, and the “fellowship” coffee pot would be full of green mold. Within eight weeks church presidents would be getting messages from God, popes would be discovering greater similarities between Christ and women, and women would be welcomed back in full equality.

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Trial For No Crime

THE GOVERNMENT of Prince George’s County, where I live, is continually presenting its citizens with incredible acts. The state government is bad enough, what with our last two elected governors being convicted of felonies and the last of these, Mandel, now engaged in a skirmish with the state over furniture that he took with him when he left the state house. But at least Mandel and Agnew acted from simple, unprincipled greed that we all comprehend. Often one cannot even discover the motive of some of the actions of the Prince George’s County government.

Recently in this county, a woman was arrested, charged with attempted suicide, and brought to court on this charge. This sounds straight forward until one learns that attempted suicide is not a crime in Maryland, and that the prosecutor, William Parker, knew it was not a crime. He was quoted as stating, “I told the judge that any attempt to commit a public wrongdoing warranted consideration by the court.” Consider the chilling implications of being tried for actions that are not crimes. And what is an “attempt at a public wrongdoing,” if not defined by the criminal code?

A public defender managed to get the case dismissed, but not before it had gone so far as a court hearing and the victim had had to plead not guilty to a charge that everyone concerned knew was not a crime.

Cops ‘n Robbers

THE PRINCE GEORGE’S County Police have recently been accused of planning robberies of convenience stores and using informers to persuade known hoodlums to carry out the robberies. The police would then stake out the store and in at least two instances killed the would-be robbers. All this is alleged to have taken place about 1967. There have long been rumors of a “death squad” operating in the county police force; a recent internal probe turned up no evidence of such a thing. However the accusations described above were made public after an investigation by the Maryland State Police.

The responses of the county police have been odd to say the least. A spokesman, the acting* chief, said that actions of that time should not be judged by the standards of today. This statement seems to be one of our heritages from Watergate. It is always implied that at some distant time in the past, say ten or thirteen years ago, we had no standards by which to judge our actions, and that since that time there has been such an increase in moral level that it is unfair to compare acts from the two eras.

Evidence that our moral level has markedly increased is little difficult to come by, I would think, and as far as the implication that all this happened in the distant past, it was not so long ago that the acting chief was not one of the officers alleged to have been involved in the action.

The chief prosecutor of Prince George’s County, Arthur Marshall, denounced the state police report saying that it was based mainly on the word of “known thieves.” He said, “I happen, as a matter of course, to believe police officers as opposed to criminals.” That certainly sounds reasonable, but what no one seems to have noticed was that no police officer said, “It didn’t happen.” They said all kinds of things but not the one obvious thing. The matter of whom to believe didn’t really come to the simple choice that Marshall knows how to make.

* The former chief retired on full disability and then took a job as a full-time chief of police in Florida. His employment has no effect on his disability retirement payments.

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The Lesson

THE PRINCE GEORGE’S COUNTY State’s Attorney, Arthur Marshall, decided not to prosecute his assistant, Joseph Sauerwein, who was, in one afternoon, involved in two hit-and-run accidents. Marshall said that Sauerwein had paid the owners of the damaged vehicles, had apologized for his conduct, and had “learned a lesson.” Instead of filing charges against Sauerwein, Marshall fined the deputy prosecutor $500.

I was aware that the State’s Attorney had great power in deciding what charges to file and what cases to prosecute, but I was amazed that he could levy a fine in lieu of prosecuting. It would certainly be interesting to know exactly what “lesson” Mr. Sauerwein learned from all this.

TV to the Rescue

SOME ADVERTISING AGENCY has had a major breakthrough. I see ads on TV for Blue Nun wine stating forcefully that Blue Nun is the perfect choice for all types of food. No more does one need to worry about this esoteric ritual; simply serve Blue Nun.

This will be a fine test of the power of television. If TV advertising can overcome the deep-seated fear that nearly all Americans have that they will be ridiculed for serving the wrong wine, we will know it is capable of any deed of persuasion to change our minds and mores. And Blue Nun will prosper while all other wines will be drunk only by foreigners who either don’t care what wine goes with what or who were born knowing what wine goes with what.

Apparently there is no hope of convincing Americans that wine choices are simply a matter of what probably tastes better with what food, and that if one doesn’t agree, one is quite at liberty to serve one’s choice. One’s guests, having their own fears, will be impressed if, indeed, they recognize a departure from the norm, and no Greek chorus chortling raspberries of ridicule will suddenly appear at one’s table.

Phyllis Richman, restaurant critic of the Washington Post, found a note on the wine list of a local restaurant that “due to the special nature of our wines, we suggest you telephone us of your choice 24 hours ahead.” And what were these special wines? They were Mateus, Blue Nun, and various Taylor wines – all very ordinary. It would be much like informing McDonald’s that you were coming in tomorrow for a hamburger.

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The Hair-Clip Heroine

WHEN A MOTORMAN on the Washington Metro stepped off his train, the computer-operated train left without him. The train stopped at subsequent stations but the doors did not open to let people off. After three or four stops, a Greenbelt woman, V. Kilena Loveless, saw that the motorman’s compartment was empty. She used a hair clip to pick the lock of the compartment door and then succeeded in pressing the right buttons to open the doors in the next station thus immobilizing the train and letting the passengers escape. Official reaction? Said a Metro official: “We have to question the security of a lock that can be opened with a hair clasp.”

Noted in Passing

The Cincinnati convention seems to have been ideal. Those who attended were glad they did; those who didn’t were glad they didn’t.

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Hand set in Goudy’s Deepdene. Display type is P. T. Barnum. Text stock is Hammermill Ivory Sunray Vellum, substance 70. Edited and published by Jake Warner who printed 460 copies on a 10×15 C & P at the Boxwood Press, Greenbelt, MD 20770.

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