Carroll official sees herself as a `moral leader'

Frazier defends ban on Sunday morning sports as family-values gesture

May 14, 2000|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Carroll Commissioner Robin Bartlett Frazier said all she wanted from a ban on Sunday morning sports at the county's athletic fields was to strengthen family values.

What she received was a stack of compliments from supporters and a barrage of criticism from those who said the policy had government making a decision that should have been left to families.

"I see the faith community as a big player in a collaborative effort to promote family values, morals and principles," she said in an interview Friday. "We as county officials have the opportunity to be the scheduler of events. I don't want to compete with the ability of the faith community to play its role."

Frazier, a 40-year-old mother of three who was elected commissioner in 1998, said she often lets her faith color her political decisions.

"My faith is what builds my character," she said. "It is what you are going to see from me. I have never hidden it under a bushel. What you are going to see from me is a striving to be honest and just based on principles found in the Bible."

It was at Frazier's suggestion that the Board of County Commissioners banned sports at the county's 100 athletic fields and school buildings until 12: 30 p.m.Sundays, seeking to reserve the morning hours for religious exercises.

Frazier is a member of the evangelical Church of the Open Door in Westminster, one of the largest congregations in Carroll County. Her job as commissioner, she said, gives her a wider audience to whom she can promote family values.

"I feel we have to be the moral leaders and set an example that sends the right message," she said. "We were not trying to be disruptive. This was a request that we hoped would be well received."

Frazier's two fellow commissioners were inundated with phone calls and e-mails -- almost all negative. In the face of so much opposition, Commissioners Donald I. Dell and Julia Walsh Gouge rescinded the measure Thursday.

Frazier, who did not participate in the decision to rescind the order, had a stack of complimentary messages Friday on the desk in her office on the top floor of the County Office Building.

"Stick to it; families are attacked by these activities" on Sunday mornings, one supporter wrote.

Frazier said she understands the pressure that led to her colleagues' decision. But she said the concept is sound and that she hopes to reintroduce it. She does not see it as a solely religious issue, but one that also concerns family values.

That religion put Frazier at the center of a fierce debate last week distressed her greatly, she said.

"I read the Bible every day," said Frazier, who said she prays often in her office for wisdom and guidance.

"My faith is my strength absolutely," she said. "I sometimes wonder how people who don't have that faith make it. Life is hard."

Frazier said she expected different points of view, but not the immediate and loud demands for an end to the policy. The ban was never intended to offend other religions, she said.

"I follow the commandment that says to love my neighbor as I love myself," she said. "It does not say love your faithful neighbors; it says all neighbors."

Frazier said she has never hidden her strong religious principles. Her campaign literature listed her involvement in several church-related organizations.

She continues to volunteer with many church groups, including a ministry to incarcerated women. At the prison, she said, she has seen the consequences of the breakdown of the family.

"The faith community can make a huge contribution to turning around the decline of our society," she said.

With their three children, she and husband, Donald, a self-employed contractor, "live what we teach, wherever we are. We are not quiet about faith," she said.

She does not proselytize, she said, but "if you ask, I am going to tell you."

"I don't want to tell people what to do, but I will share what faith has meant in my life," she said.

As one of three commissioners, she leads a rapidly growing county of more than 150,000. Frazier is frequently invited to address groupssuch as the Fellowship of Christian Farmers and Youth for Christ.

She spent her spare time Friday writing a speech for a mother-daughter dinner at Grace Bible Church in Manchester. People see her as a government leader and they have come to expect a statement of faith from her, she said.

"These people," she said, "would not be calling on me as Robin Frazier, stay-at-home mom."

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