As Miss America, Kate Shindle will be visiting a different city every other day, logging 20,000 miles a month, advocating AIDS prevention, the "platform" she adopted in entering the Miss America pageant.
That platform, however, began raising concerns in the Christian community the day after the twenty-year-old college senior from Illinois won her crown and its $40,000 scholarship Sept. 13.
The Associated Press reported Shindle favors giving out condoms in high schools as part of AIDS prevention.
And while saying abstinence is the only foolproof method for preventing the transmission of sexual disease, Shindle noted in a news conference it may not be realistic to think that teens will refrain from premarital sexual relations.
"We need to recognize that, and not try to convince ourselves that we can talk kids out of having sex," Shindle was quoted as saying, "but rather ... talk to them about the best ways they can make their behavior safer."
Asked for reaction to Shindle's point of view, one of the organizers of True Love Waits, the popular campaign for sexual abstinence until marriage, said he hopes Miss America's travels will give her a new perspective.
"During her travels this year, I hope Kate has opportunity to meet many of the hundreds of thousands of teenagers who have chosen abstinence until marriage," said Richard Ross of the Southern Baptist Sunday School Board, based in Nashville, Tenn. "That will help her discover that a clear call to abstinence from leaders is not only morally right, it is also a practical strategy.
"The swelling numbers of True Love Waits youth demonstrate that a good percentage of the teenage population is more interested in God's best than a latex crutch," said Ross, who also is a youth minister at a Nashville-area church.
C. Ben Mitchell, consultant on biomedical and life issues for the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and assistant professor of Christian ethics at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Ky., stated: "Sadly, it is obvious that Miss America is the product of our tragic experiment in social engineering. She clearly thinks it is impossible for teenagers to say 'no' to premarital sex."
Mitchell suggested Shindle instead use her role "to encourage youth to take the moral high ground, not wallow in the moral morass of our sex-addicted culture."
Mitchell added, "The notion that teenagers cannot restrain themselves from having intercourse is a distinctively contemporary idea. Now, we are told, teenagers are held hostage by their hormones." The fact is, sexual abstinence before marriage was the norm before the advent of the "sexual revolution," he said.
"Using Miss Shindle's safe so-called sex message, we could say, 'We can't talk kids out of playing with pipe bombs, we just need to talk to them about ways they can make safer bombs,'" Mitchell said.