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Miss America stood firm for abstinence.

Before she was crowned Miss America 2003 in September of last year, Erika Harold of Urbana, Illinois, had for many years carried a message urging premarital chastity to youngsters across the Prairie State. Consistent with her deeply held Christian convictions regarding the issue, she made abstinence a centerpiece of her year-long reign as Miss America which ended on September 20.

Miss Harold was recently interviewed by radio station WDLM-FM, which reaches the Quad Cities of Illinois and Iowa. Among other things, Miss Harold recalled how God moved her to continue speaking out about abstinence after winning the title, though a lot of people were discouraging her from doing so. Even before Miss America Organization officials formally asked her to refrain from talking about the issue, she had "started to hear from pro-family groups that their phone calls were not being returned in regard to booking me for abstinence presentations. And pro-family media entities, their phone calls were not being answered as well." She stood firm, and the organization eventually agreed to let her talk about premarital chastity as part of her youth-violence prevention platform.

Miss Harold decided to postpone detailed public discussion of the controversy until after her successor had been crowned. "I knew that God wanted me to stand firm in what I believed in," she told WDLM, "but I also knew that He wanted me to carry myself in a gracious and dignified way. It would have undermined my testimony if, while I was saying, 'I'm going to stand up for what I believe in,' I was behaving at the same time in a manner that appeared un-Christian to the people in the Miss America Organization." She believes that "God puts us in places to be able to witness to people who may oppose us. During the course of the year they had opportunities to see me present the abstinence message and to see that it's something that's received well by young people. It gives them hope. And I think that may have changed the way the Miss America Organization views the abstinence issue."

She attributes the early reticence regarding her important abstinence message to the desire of organization officials to avoid controversy. "They would want to be in a position where they're able to appeal to all sides. And when you're promoting something like abstinence until marriage, you're promoting a particular standard." She hopes that her "standing up gives other people, [especially] any young person who has something they believe in passionately, [the] courage to stand and recognize that they'll be supported by their fellow Christians."
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Title Annotation:Making A Difference
Author:Lee, Robert W.
Publication:The New American
Date:Nov 17, 2003
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