Off The Record: On Religion, Politics & Equality
Good gravy another note! @ 7:05 Aug. 1
I just spoke to the news director and she is upset. I don’t blame her. I was told the interview with Cristen wasn’t rejected because she was “too liberal”. I maintain and will always maintain it was. So the director and I don’t agree on that. One thing I do agree with the director on is this: MPB ISN’T the story – do not let that be the takeaway – the take away is that teen pregnancy in Mississippi is a PUBLIC HEALTH CRISIS. That parents must be vigilant. That people have to continue to challenge school boards, elected officials and those on the government payroll when something doesn’t seem right.
So please, share this responsibly – with an eye on the actual project – the teen birth crisis in Mississippi, religion and its real impact on public policy.
NOTE: (5:45 pm Aug 1)
Its come to my attention that there is some hubbub about this on the MPB Facebook Page. I can assure you that this interview was rejected because Hemmins was seen as too liberal. I made the case for inclusion – many times – illuminating the hyper-locallization and district autonomy provided in HB 999. I was also told her discussing personhood was immaterial and that she was inaccurate about abstinence-only being a complete failure.
About that “inaccurate” thing – if you have a chance to listen to the Thursday interview with McAdoo and Bush – Dr. Bush gives many, many stats that are completely inaccurate – yet her interview ran.
Mississippi Public Broadcasting refuses to run this interview with Cristen Hemmins because she is “too liberal”. This is personal experience. Liberal doesn’t enter the picture.
I lobbied hard for this interview’s inclusion and was summarily shut down. So, I share it with you here.
A little background:
Cristen Hemmins lives outside of Oxford down the narrow wind of a beautiful dirt road. Kudzu drapes the trees as the meet the road, there are wildflowers and the canopy shades the hot Mississippi sun from beating you down. I pulled into her curved gravel driveway – her home situated on a slight rise, chicken coop to the left of me and simple but perfect works of folk art sprinkled around the lawn.
I had never met Hemmins when I showed up last month on short notice. We had talked many times going back to last fall when she was fighting against Proposition 26 the “personhood” amendment that would have effective outlawed abortion (and birth control and in-vitro) But, when she opened the door, we hugged and exchanged looks that said lets get down to work.
This time it wasn’t about personhood; the amendment was soundly defeated through an intense educational campaign throughout the state. It was considered a coup in Mississippi, the state ranked number one by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life as the most religious in the union.
This time I was there to talk sex education and the unique situation the Oxford School District found itself in after the superintendent and school board chose a wildly unpopular, ineffective and non-evidence based abstinence only until marriage program called Choosing the Best.
With complete opacity and after a visit between the superintendent Brian Harvey and founder of Choosing the Best held a secret review committee and a quicky vote the ideology of the few trumped the health and welfare of the many.
Mississippi, in addition to being the most religious state also holds the title for most teen pregnancies and as a result tops the charts in child poverty. Last year, in an attempt to finally deal with the teen pregnancy problem HR 999 passed the house, senate and earned Haley Barbour’s signature. For the first time in Mississippi history public schools much teach sex education.
Last fall, the Mississippi legislature made an historic declaration: all public schools in the state must select a sex education curriculum for implementation in the 2012-2013 school year. This decision is historic because Mississippi has never, ever taught sex education in schools. Ever.
Schools around the state must, as mandated by the sex ed bill HR 999, select an abstinence-only or a so-named ‘abstinence-plus’ (which instructs students on the proper use of contraception) program from a list of Mississippi Department of Education approved curricula.
This spring, the relatively liberal community of Oxford (home of Faulkner and Ole Miss) was stunned when the school board selected an abstinence-only-until-marriage curriculum for the middle school and ‘abstinence-plus’ curriculum for the high school. The ab-plus program it adopted called Choosing the Best is in fact rated as ‘poor’ by the US Department of Health and Human Services (The curriculum was also shown to not be truly ab-plus as it had no meaningful discussion of contraception, utilized a virginity pledge and is not evidenced based).