MAKING A DIFFERENCEBy Marlene Reid
Part two of five
One could say that 1973 was my “coming out” year. Besides being catapulted into a defense of our faith by a faith-less priest, it was the year Minnesota had ratified the Equal Rights Amendment (the ERA) which I soon realized needed to be stopped; the U.S. Supreme Court had made two far-reaching decisions, one the disastrous Roe v. Wade abortion ruling, and the other, the Miller decision, a positive tool for fighting pornography and obscenity.
Well, the saying goes, “Birds of a feather flock together” and I was out looking for other birds! A group of Catholic women, who had experienced their awakening before I, had already organized to become a formidable force. These warriors called themselves “The Little Women.” Some of them are here tonight – Helen Johnson, Eloise Becker, Eleanor Staler, Kaye Hilpisch & Terry Todd. Mary Prior has left to follow the birds south for the winter, while Kaye Schierman (at whose Summit Avenue home we met), Mary Kluck, Tory Bowlin, Peg Cullen and others have already gone to her eternal reward. I don’t remember how we found each other, but I was invited to join their ranks. They quickly filled in the blanks on any of my missing research.
I was so driven, and so energized, that I was working on about four tracks at the same time. I was willing to travel, to debate, to share our research with anyone who would listen, and was given ample opportunity, sometimes via radio or TV, giving seminars in the Dakotas, Iowa or Wisconsin, and often just talking to groups of concerned citizens, from ten at a time to hundreds.
Terry Todd and I made several trips to Washington to testify and lobby. Congressman Phil Crane, a historian from Illinois, was dumb-founded when we showed him how history was being re-written in the textbooks. Congressman Bob Dornan from California gave us hours of his time as we revealed what was being taught under the guise of drug education, and showed him the blueprint for the radical feminsts’ destruction of the family and denigration of marriage. He assured us he would be our mouthpiece and we were to send information, as we uncovered it, to his home in Virginia so it wouldn’t get misplaced by his aides. With this outlet, and ever-eager listeners and activists at Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum, we garnered national audiences to hear and spread the word.
First, I want to pick-up on one track, but we need to start with a little ancient history. Back in the late 1960’s, Presidents Lyndon Johnson appointed a Commission to study the effects of pornography/obscenity and provide advice on how to deal with it. President Nixon continued this quest. They both knew porn was a problem. They wanted to know how to solve the problem.
The 18-member Commission was Chaired by William B. Lockhart, Dean of the Univ. of MN Law School. Both he and his legal counsel, Paul Bender, were members of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), so you can guess what their conclusions were going to be. Two clergymen were also appointed, a Jesuit Catholic priest, Morton A. Hill, who had founded the National organization, Morality in Media, (incidentally, still a powerful force in the anti-porn crusade), and Dr. Winfrey Link. The majority report concluded, not surprisingly, that pornography is harmless, should be ignored, and that it actually “strengthens conjugal ties” and “heightens marital satisfaction.”
“Not so fast!” said Father Hill and Dr. Link! They charged that the Chairman had been prejudiced, that evidence of harm had been swept under the rug, and that the majority report was “a magna carta for the pornographer.” They subsequently held some of their own hearings and published a Minority Report, rebutting the Majority’s conclusions. President Nixon and Congress rejected the Majority Report, adopted, and read into the record of the House & Senate the Minority Report with its recommendations for controlling pornography & obscenity. While the terms are often used interchangeably, “obscenity” is the hard core material as legally defined by the U.S. Supreme Court, while “pornography” is associated with the likes of Playboy. With this Minority report now being official, and reasonable, The U.S. Supreme Court referred to it often, and relied on it, in reaching their 1973 Miller v. California decision.
Father Hill came to Minnesota to advise us on what action could be taken in our state. He was sponsored by Gene and Mary Conway, God rest their souls, and presented to: “Who else? - The Little Women!” I learned that the MN statute on the books, while not written in the specific language needed for easy comprehension, could be construed to “bear the teeth” of the positive Miller decision. We accepted the challenge, and began our efforts with a 3-pronged approach. We raised public awareness, and mobilized the grassroots with picketing, protesting, and lobbying. We worked to change the statute to be specific, so prosecutors could understand it, and we educated the prosecutors on how they could proceed in the meantime. At one point we organized a one-day seminar for attorneys, legislators, and prosecutors at William Mitchell College of Law for this educational purpose, bringing in several national presenters including a successful prosecutor from Tennessee. Soon thereafter, we started seeing some convictions!
In this capacity we soon became aware of another Catholic organization making an impact on MN laws. The Catholic Defense League (at that time known as the MN Chapter of the national Catholic League for Religious & Civil Rights) had succeeded in getting legislation passed entitled State Aid to Private Schools. This was 1975. The law provided some state funds for books, materials, and a limited transportation subsidy for students in parochial & private schools.
[end of part two of five]