Snake in the Women's Panel Debate CARROLL COUNTY

November 22, 1993

We may never know why Carroll County Commissioner Julia W. Gouge interjected religion into the discussion of whether lawmakers should approve enabling legislation to create a women's commission on the county level. Now that it is out on the table, however, the issue needs to be discussed. And in the words of H. Ross Perot, it should take but a minute to kill this snake.

From what Mrs. Gouge said, it appears opponents of the proposed commission are waging war against it on two fronts. On one level, the community has had an open discussion about the necessity, mission and cost of a panel to examine issues affecting women. Apparently, there is also a subterranean campaign in which the religion of the commission organizer has become the criterion for judging the need.

Rachelle Hurwitz, the driving force behind the commission idea, is Jewish. Her religion is no more relevant in determining whether to create this sounding board than where she graduated from college or where she was born. Would the opponents of the commission be conducting a whispering campaign if Mrs. Hurwitz were Lutheran, Catholic, Methodist, Quaker or Episcopalian? Of course not.

The rest of us should have no trouble recognizing what is happening: Religious bigotry is serving as a proxy for a lot of other issues. A significant number of Carroll residents don't like feminism. They also don't like people who are different from them. What better way to mobilize opposition than to link feminism, which people don't like, to Judaism, a religion with which many Carroll residents aren't familiar?

The argument that a women's commission will not represent all women because its organizer is Jewish is complete nonsense. That same argument could be applied to all sorts of advisory commissions. Should a women's commission be created, the county commissioners and the new panel can chose a wide variety of women from all over Carroll County to ensure that it represents a broad spectrum of women and opinions.

The debate on the commission should be restricted to whether such a group will improve public policy-making and address issues affecting women. We hope Carroll's lawmakers stick to the issues and ignore the irrelevancies that some would like to introduce into the debate.

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