Schlafly Stirs Audience Walkout

CORRECTION APPENDED

Twelve audience members staged a silent walkout yesterday afternoon in the Agassiz Theatre to protest a conservative icon who has, in the past, downplayed the importance of domestic abuse.

The demonstration occurred at a speech by Phyllis Schlafly, the woman credited with defeating the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) in the 1970s.

Twenty minutes into the lecture on “The Culture War in the Courts,” as Schlafly criticized judges who upheld the right of public school to require programs emphasizing tolerance for homosexuals, the protesters stood up and silently left the room.

“It’s important to listen to viewpoints, but there’s a line,” said Catherine C. Pyle, a second year Harvard Divinity School student and first-time protester who organized the walkout.

“What pushed me over the edge was her stance on domestic violence,” Pyle added, referring to Schlafly’s comments during a speech at Bates College in March, in which she questioned the legitimacy of martial abuse.

According to Robert A. Casapulla, a sophomore and member of the College Republicans at the University of Connecticut who attended the lecture, Schlafly often provokes heated reactions.

Casapulla said that the audience of 70 was “respectful,” noting that “we’re used to a more hysterical response.” Attendees included University President Drew G. Faust and Schlafly’s grandson, Andrew Schlafly ’10. [SEE CORRECTION BELOW]

The 82-year-old firebrand has been in the public spotlight since 1972, when she launched STOP ERA to defeat the amendment, which at the time had been ratified by 30 of the required 38 states. Schlafly argued that the law, which read “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex,” would undermine families, require the federal government to draft women, and take away women’s right to be supported by their husbands. The 1979 deadline for ratification passed, but the amendment did not.

Her campaign galvanized many conservative Catholics, Protestants, and Orthodox Jews.

“She demonstrated to New Right activists the power that would come from uniting religious conservatives, which had not happened before,” said University of South Carolina professor Majorie J. Spruill, who was a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute last year and suggested that the Institute invite Schlafly to speak because of her impact on the American political landscape.

Schlafly’s speech yesterday also chastised American judges for overreaching their jurisdiction.

“The nation needs judges for the same reason baseball needs umpires, to call the balls and strikes. But the umpire has no right to change the rules of the game,” Schlafly said before condemning as unconstitutional rulings that allow schools to require psychological surveys, pornographers to publish lewd images, and the government to ban school prayer.

CORRECTION: The Oct. 16 news article "Schlafly Stirs Audience Walkout" gave an incorrect estimate of the number of people attending a speech by political activist Phyllis Schlafly. According to Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study officials, about 150 people were at the event, not 70 as the article reported.