One of the leading forces behind alcohol Prohibition is still alive -- if enfeebled -- and meeting this week at its international convention in Indianapolis. The Women's Christian Temperance Union is bringing anti-alcohol activists from more than 30 countries to continue its 130-year struggle against demon rum.
The organization, which describes itself as the world's oldest non-sectarian women's organization, began as a group for women concerned with alcohol abuse. Originally organized in upstate New York by women who marched on saloons to urge their owners to close them -- which didn't work very well -- the WCTU proved a workhorse in paving the way to Prohibition. Less than 50 years after its founding in 1874, it helped usher in the era of national alcohol Prohibition in the US.
While the WCTU continues to oppose alcohol, it has also modernized, now also opposing drug use and efforts to reform drug laws. It also opposes abortion, the use of fetal stem cells, gambling, and pornography.
The WCTU's issue page on marijuana uncritically repeats just about every negative claim made about the plant, but actually breaks outrageous new ground with the following, never before heard claim: "In a 1999 report of 664 drug-related deaths, 187 of them resulted from marijuana use alone."
Fortunately, the WCTU is a mere shadow of its former self and now appears to have little interest or ability in crafting new prohibitionist laws. It is, however, still willing to confront confounding issues. On Saturday, convention attendees will hear a lecture on "Wine in the Bible."