Keep Singing
Two Mothers, Two Sons,
And their Fight Against
Jesse Helms

Patsy Clarke and
Eloise Vaughn

Patsy Clarke lived all her life in North Carolina. Her husband was a respected businessman and a stalwart in the Republican Party.

    We subscribed to conservative publications such as Human Events and The Dan Smoot Report and hosted John Birch meetings in our living room. We worked on petitions to impeach Supreme Court justice Earl Warren.

In the early 1990s her son Mark was diagnosed HIV-positive and confessed to her that he was gay. Shortly afterwards, he became ill with the symptoms of full-blown AIDS. He died at age thirty-one, in considerable agony. Clarke realized that she had created a situation where until the last few months, Mark fought his illness alone, isolated from the family.

Jesse Helms, one of the two Senators who represented her state (and who had been friends with her husband) was attacking gays on the floor of the Senate, trying to block funding for further AIDS research. Ms. Clarke wrote him a letter, reminding him of the kindness he had shown when her husband had died in an airplane accident. She asked him to be equally kind with those who were dying or had died of AIDS.

He responded,

    I know Mark's death was a devastating blow to you. As far as homosexuality, the Bible judges it, I do not. As for Mark, I wish he had not played Russian roulette with his sexual activity. I have sympathy for him and for you. But there is no escaping the reality of what happened.

For those of us reading these words in the clear light of day, there's a word for his response. It is called hard-hearted. However Ms. Clarke is nothing if not a fighter. She and Eloise Vaughn --- an equally well-connected conservative in North Carolina politics, and one who had also lost a son to AIDS --- created MAJIC, Mothers Against Jesse in Congress. They opposed him vigorously in the 1996 election, horrifying many of their friends and fellow church-goers.

They gave speeches, raised funds, appeared on national television, and so rattled the cage that Helms had them put down as number two on his Nixonian-style "enemies" list. The Senator won reëlection, Clarke and Vaughn lost, but they attracted a fair amount of attention. This is their story. It is told in a simple and guileless way.

The only problem as we can see is that the two ladies didn't choose to challenge the good Senator on his own territory. He is right in saying that the Bible condemns homosexuality outright. Leviticus 20:13 says that if a man shall lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death. But Leviticus casts a wide net: it also condemns to death those who commit adultery, incest, and who "lie with a beast." Thus one who believes in the inerrancy of the Bible might ask that Gary Condit --- the Congressman from California who has recently admitted to adultery --- be put to death, preferably in the ancient Old Testament way, by stoning.

At the same time, the Bible does speaks affirmatively of other, more unusual life-styles. For example, it sees slavery as an acceptable, natural fact of human existence. Leviticus 19:20 says that if a man "lieth carnally with a woman, that is a bondmaid" (eg, a slave), then "she shall be scourged" (eg, beaten). The man, however, shall not be punished. Why? Because "she was not free." One, thus, can only be punished for carnally knowing one who is not a slave.

Exodus, in Chapter 21, speaks frankly about the buying and selling of humans. If thou buy an Hebrew servant, it says, six years he shall serve: in the seventh he shall go out free for nothing. But there is a kicker: if the master buys a wife for the slave, and if

    she have born him sons or daughters: the wife and her children shall be her masters'.

It goes on to say that if the owner "smite" his slave, and kill him, "he shall be surely punished." But there is this caveat: if the slave does not die promptly, if he continue to live for "a day or two, he shall not be punished, for he is his money." In other words, the slave represents real assets. In present day terms, this is known as "the capital imperative."

§     §     §

It is obvious that since Helms is a firm believer of Biblical inerrancy, he should be a force for enforcing the manifold strictures of the Old Testament. On the basis of the many passages in the Bible that speak positively of "bondsmen" and "bondswomen," we would suggest he introduce in Congress a Second Helms Amendment, one that would call for the repeal of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which abolished slavery.

In addition, if he truly wants to punish the wicked, Helms Amendment #2 could also be a vehicle to reintroduce ancient penalties --- like the stoning of sinners. For instance, Deuteronomy 22:18 tells us that if one has a "stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother," then

    the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die.

Further, if a daughter is "not a maid," and "the tokens of virginity be not found," then

    the men of her city shall stone her with stones that she die.

The man who violated her? The elders will "amerce" (penalize) him for his malfeasances to the tune of "hundred shekels of silver." At the current exchange rate (approximately four New Israeli shekels to the dollar), that would be twenty-five U.S. dollars. A paltry price indeed for a man to pay for his sins.

--- Carlos Amantea

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