David Talbot writes in Salon today about his interview with Rev. Howard Bess, a Baptist Minister in Palmer, Alaska, and the author of Pastor, I am Gay, one of the books in the book banning controversy surrounding former Mayor Sarah Palin and the Wasilla Library. Talbot also reveals that Palin has been involved in street protests attempting to prevent women from their legal rights to obtain an abortion in Alaska.
Soon after the book controversy, Bess found himself again at odds
with Palin and her fellow evangelicals. In 1996, evangelical churches
mounted a vigorous campaign to take over the local hospital’s community
board and ban abortion from the valley. When they succeeded, Bess and
Dr. Susan Lemagie, a Palmer OB-GYN, fought back, filing suit on behalf
of a local woman who had been forced to travel to Seattle for an
abortion. The case was finally decided by the Alaska Supreme Court,
which ruled that the hospital must provide valley women with the
At one point during the hospital battle, passions ran so hot that
local antiabortion activists organized a boisterous picket line outside
Dr. Lemagie’s office, in an unassuming professional building across
from Palmer’s Little League field. According to Bess and another
community activist, among the protesters trying to disrupt the
physician’s practice that day was Sarah Palin.
Another valley activist, Philip Munger, says that Palin also helped
push the evangelical drive to take over the Mat-Su Borough school
board. "She wanted to get people who believed in creationism on the
board," said Munger, a music composer and teacher. "I bumped into her
once after my band played at a graduation ceremony at the Assembly of
God. I said, ‘Sarah, how can you believe in creationism — your
father’s a science teacher.’ And she said, ‘We don’t have to agree on
"I pushed her on the earth’s creation, whether it was really less
than 7,000 years old and whether dinosaurs and humans walked the earth
at the same time. And she said yes, she’d seen images somewhere of
dinosaur fossils with human footprints in them."
Munger also asked Palin if she truly believed in the End of Days,
the doomsday scenario when the Messiah will return. "She looked in my
eyes and said, ‘Yes, I think I will see Jesus come back to earth in my
Bess is unnerved by the prospect of Palin — a woman whose mind is
given to dogmatic certitude — standing one step away from the Oval
Office. "It’s truly frightening that someone like Sarah has risen to
the national level," Bess said. "Like all religious fundamentalists –
Christian, Jewish, Muslim — she is a dualist. They view life as an
ongoing struggle to the finish between good and evil.
Palin’s involvement in street level protests runs counter to her "respect for people with different opinions" on abortion and her desire to "reach out and work with people from the other side" of the abortion issue as she told Charlie Gibson in her recent interview with him.
It’s not that abortion is the most important issue in this election for women, or anyone else, but her involvement in these street level protests does speak to a certain mindset she would bring to Washington. This latest news does coincide with the McCain campaign’s tactics lately, with an all out return to the Culture War which seeks to divide communities and the nation, rather than finding common ground that truly respects differing views on controversial issues, allowing government to focus less on the private and personal matters of people’s lives, and more the the economy, health care, education, infrastructure, and the business of government.
The Wonk Room also has a great take on this, weaving together many aspects of this still developing story.