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US Grant To Women’s Group Stirs Conservative-Liberal Row

June 5, 1986

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The furor over a federal grant to a conservative women’s group is polarizing potential allies and could penalize victims of domestic violence, says a Justice Department official who oversees spending on the problem.

″We’re all in this together,″ Assistant Attorney General Lois Herrington said Wednesday. ″Family violence is not a political issue at all. It’s not just a feminist issue. It’s not just a family issue. It is a criminal issue. Some people want an excuse to be polarized and that’s going to hurt innocent victims.″

The controversy arose over a $622,905 Justice Department grant to the Task Force on Families in Crisis, which says it will educate the public about family violence. The task force is an offshoot of the conservative Eagle Forum headed by Phyllis Schlafly.

Mrs. Schlafly, who is not a member of the task force, told The Washington Post earlier this week that after the Justice Department awarded a grant last summer for battered women shelters, ″fair play required equal treatment of traditional women.″

″The feminist ideology is that all men would be wife-beaters if they got the chance. We do not accept that ideology. Surely the whole answer cannot be to punish the woman by taking her out of her own home,″ Mrs. Schlafly said.

At the other end of the political spectrum, People for the American Way, a liberal lobbying group, called the grant a ″scandalous abuse″ of taxpayer dollars and an excuse to help the controversial Eagle Forum spread its views.

On Capitol Hill, Rep. Patricia Schroeder, D-Colo., said the grant may be illegal and should be investigated by the House Judiciary Committee.

In a speech Wednesday on the House floor, Mrs. Schroeder said domestic violence funds were allocated for shelters, not education. In addition, she said, the money was for groups with experience in the field.

″This group has no experience whatsoever in the area of domestic violence,″ she said. ″And finally the group itself had withdrawn its grant proposal last April, saying it shouldn’t take money from the Justice Department at a time the government is making so many debts.″

The grant came nearly a year after the Justice Department, over the objections of Mrs. Schlafly and other conservatives, awarded $580,000 to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. The coalition members run most of the nation’s shelters for battered women.

Mrs. Herrington, who heads the Office of Justice Programs, said the coalition supports the goals of the task force, which aims to enlist civic and religious groups to help prevent family violence. She said the project could make more of mainstream America aware of the problem.

″We’ve finally got a group that is very representative of a lot of these civic groups, that has ties to civic groups, ties to the religious community that we have not had before,″ said Mrs. Herrington.

Mrs. Herrington said five people on the task force had testified on family violence during Justice Department hearings around the country, and that they had either personal or professional experience in the area.

She said money for the grant was available from the same discretionary fund as the grant to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. She said the families in crisis group withdrew its application believing funds were unavailable, but reinstated its request when the department said it could make the grant.

Mrs. Schroeder said the Schlafly group appeared to have gotten the grant to ″get even″ for the money given to shelters. ″To give away $622,905 of the taxpayers’ money merely to assure Phyllis Schlafly that the Justice Department has not sold out to the feminists is an absurd abuse of the taxpayers’ money,″ she said.

But Mrs. Herrington said Mrs. Schlafly was not involved in obtaining the grant. The project won the money, she said, because its prevention thrust is in line with September 1984 recommendations by an attorney general’s task force on family violence.

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