Religious Smoke Screen

January 26, 1994

Carroll County's delegation to the General Assembly got an earful last Saturday when it held a hearing on the nine county bills to be submitted this legislative session. Most of the discussion focused on a proposal to create a county commission for women's issues. After sitting through two hours of debate, however, the delegation may have been left with a mistaken impression of this bill because a number of speakers digressed from the real issues involved with creating such a panel and focused instead on irrelevancies.

Chief among the distractions is the issue of religion. The faith of Rachelle Hurwitz, who chaired the steering committee that pushed for the creation of the commission, is unrelated to the issue at hand. So is the fear that there will be some type of religious litmus test for prospective members. All this discussion about one person's religion is nothing more than a smoke screen to hide the real reasons some people object to the formation of this commission.

Changing the political balance of power is at the root of the opposition to forming a Carroll Commission for Women. People comfortable with the status quo in Carroll County don't want an organization of stature that might upset the current political composition -- one that leaves women without an organized voice. To keep the discussion from dealing with the issue of disenfranchisement, the volatile but distracting issue of religion has been injected by opponents.

The real matter that the delegation must consider is whether women should have a forum that would give them direct and visible access to the political arena. Certainly, other groups have county-sponsored organizations looking after their interests. The county's young have the Children's Council, which lobbies on behalf of legislation that affects children. Carroll's elderly have their own advocacy group, too. Denying women such a forum would seem hypocritical.

Forming a women's commission is not a radical idea. What is radical is the impact that the commission might have on the way public officials conduct business.

Instead of ignoring issues with singular relevance to women, as is many times the case today, elected officials should be forced to give them more serious consideration.

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