By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
By Jesse Marx
Gort and her cohorts say they couldn't agree more. That's why they've worked to forge the new two-track program, even when it looked like they had the school-board votes to get rid of comprehensive sex education altogether. Asked whether one day they plan to pursue an abstinence-only program for all students, they uniformly insist on just the opposite. "To me, this is about choice," Vicky Johnson says. "That's why I got involved, period. The support we've gotten from groups like the Minnesota Family Council didn't come until just a few months ago. We've been at this for years."
"We're not stupid," Gort insists, over and again. "The beauty of this is that it addresses everyone's values. There are classes to support kids who choose not to be sexually active, and there are classes to teach you everything you need to know if you choose to be sexually active. It's a win-win situation. No one's ever done this before. What if it works? We'll never know until we try. Believe me, if in ten years the statistics tell us differently, we'll all jump over to the other side."
Forty-two percent of Osseo's junior high students and 31 percent of those in the senior high schools have signed up for the abstinence-until-marriage course that is set to begin this fall.
Act Three: Nailed to the Goal Post
When they purchased their $35 advance tickets from Ticketmaster, most of the 500-plus self-proclaimed conservatives at this evening's rally for the Minnesota Family Council had never heard of Littleton, Colorado, or Columbine High School. Just 48 hours before this April 20 gathering, though, that latch-key community--hauntingly familiar to a bulk of this suburban-based, Suburban-driving crowd--became a bellwether for special-interest groups across the spectrum. Gun-control advocates, gun enthusiasts, civil libertarians, media watchdogs, movie censors, and misfits of every stripe found a foothold in its aftermath. Members of the religious conclave in attendance tonight count 15 lives sucked into the moral void that is our lost youths' collective soul.
"We live in very troubled times," MFC president Tom Prichard tells the crowd, who've assembled at the State Theatre in downtown Minneapolis for an evening of inspiration. "When family crumbles, society crumbles. Judeo-Christian values must be our foundation."
The congregation's master of ceremonies, Chuck Knapp, a Promise Keeper and radio personality for the Roseville-based Christian radio station, KTIS (900 AM), follows Prichard's lead with a precursory prayer. "Lord," he purrs sorrowfully. "We don't understand the madness." A bass-chested man in the front row moans in agreement.
The tragedy will emerge as one of the evening's many themes, all intertwined, all parts of a holy whole. To be pro-life, against homosexuality, and for abstinence is to be for the children, about the future, true to the evening's subject, which is projected on a towering screen suspended behind the stage: "Taking a Stand: Defending the Family."
Phil Keaggy is in the house. A middle-aged singer-songwriter with a pleasant, tenor voice, he has come to sing of love for God and country, and self-respect. Between tunes with lyrics like "I only want to spend my life with you," he tells autobiographical tales, about the day he and his sister found God back in the early '70s, about the child he and his wife Bernadette lost to premature death.
At that, Knapp hands the Family Advocate Award to Barb Anderson, a teacher and writer from Anoka who, as he puts it, has served the "pro-family" cause by uncovering the lies being taught to the youth in our public schools. While accepting the honor, she tells the faithful not to trust the system. She tells them abstinence until marriage is the only way to put kids "back on track": She spins true-life horror stories about HPV. "If it weren't for AIDS," she claims, "HPV would be on the front page. There is no safe sex for teenagers." She applauds the mothers in Osseo. She calls them the "Kitchen Militia."
"It's just like those kids in Colorado," Anderson says a few days later. "They needed adults to give them guidance. The abstinence message will also affect teen suicide rates, because it affects self-esteem. We have to teach teens that sex is a part of their life they should value and not give away so freely."
Megan West, Miss Minnesota 1998, is the evening's warmup speaker. Dressed in a modest business suit and sensible black heels, she delivers a canned speech about her work promoting abstinence throughout the state. "So many things are bringing our children down, such as Marilyn Manson," she deadpans, referring to the salacious and transgressive glam rocker. "We need to teach our children absolutism."
Finally, at a few minutes before 9:00 p.m., the big ticket, the reason everyone is still in downtown Minneapolis at this ungodly hour, Reggie White, takes the stage to testify. The All-Pro football star, the onetime spiritual leader of the hated Green Bay Packers, "The Minister of Defense": Reverend Reggie White.
Held up for ridicule by the media when he spoke to the Wisconsin Legislature a year ago, White has become a kind of folk hero among those who abhor political correctness. Never mind that he said black people like to dance, Asians can turn a TV into a watch, Native Americans know how to sneak up on people, and kids--his included--sometimes deserve to be whupped. He speaks from the heart, and doesn't care how it sounds.