sealPurdue Lifestyles Briefs

November 1996

Expert: Churches muddy the ban on political activity

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Members of the religious right seem to be pushing the envelope on political activity, testing a confusing ban on churches participating in partisan politics, notes a Purdue University expert on religion and society.

Recent political efforts by Christians include the activities of the Christian Coalition, which has vowed to do all it can to defeat President Bill Clinton in the upcoming election. Their efforts have included mailing out 45 million "voter guides" nationwide. At the grassroots level, Christians are working to elect church members to local school boards and offices.

"Many people mistakenly believe that the Constitutional provision for separation of church and state prohibits churches from being active in partisan politics," says James D. Davidson, professor of sociology. "That's not the case, rather the ban stems from a little-known tax-reform amendment introduced by Lyndon Johnson in 1954."

That was the era of McCarthyism. Johnson, then a Democratic senator up for re-election in Texas, sponsored an amendment to a tax reform bill that prohibited tax-exempt organizations from participating in or intervening in political campaigns. Davidson says Johnson's goal at the time appears to have been to thwart a conservative, tax-exempt Texas foundation, Facts Forum. That group had become a key source of information for "Red Scare" activists and a source of support for right-wing candidates.

"Johnson was not trying to address any Constitutional issue, nor did he offer the amendment because of anything that churches had done," Davidson says. "There was no discussion of the amendment on the floor prior to passage, so we don't know whether any of the senators had any idea of the far-reaching affects it would have on churches."

Davidson says that since the early 1980s, there has been a surge in political activity among Christians, particularly among evangelical Christians. As a result, lawsuits have been filed challenging the legality of such activity. In one case, the Federal Election Commission has filed suit against the Christian Coalition, claiming it should register as a political action committee, which would take away its tax-exempt status. In another instance, the Internal Revenue Service has a suit filed against the Second Baptist Church of Houston and its voter education program.

"It's anybody's guess as to how these cases will turn out," Davidson says. "But it's important to know that the legality of the matter has nothing to do with religion. It's the tax-exempt status of these organizations that brings their political activity into question."

CONTACT: Davidson, (765) 494-4688

Expert advocates behavior modification to control ADHD

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Only 10 percent of children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) receive any kind of therapy to help them modify their behavior. A Purdue University expert on ADHD says that figure should be near 100 percent.

"Ninety percent of children with ADHD are treated with stimulant medication at some time in their lives, but taking a pill is only a three-hour solution to the problem," says Betsy Hoza, assistant professor of psychological sciences. "Teaching children to control their behavior might be expected to make more of an impact on their lives."

Hoza is a faculty supervisor for Purdue's Child and Adolescent Clinic, which provides behavior modification therapy for youths with a variety of problems.

"Medication should not be the first choice for treating ADHD," she says. Hoza advocates trying behavior management techniques first, and then adding medication if the child's behavior remains unacceptable. She maintains that medication dosages often could be cut in half if they were coupled with behavioral treatment.

When behavior modification methods are put into practice, it's the adults who get most of the training. In the Purdue clinic, parents of ADHD children attend 10 sessions to learn simple skills for managing their child's behavior. The children's teachers also are asked to fill out daily report cards on the student's conduct. Parents then provide home-based rewards when children exhibit proper school behavior.

Among the topics covered is how to give commands in a way that will bring about compliance by the child. "For example, telling a child to be good is not specific enough," Hoza says. "If you want them to sit in a chair with their feet on the floor, tell them that." Parents also receive information on how to use time-outs and how to tackle difficult times such as getting ready for school or bedtime.

"It's not that these parents have bad parenting skills," Hoza says. "We assure them and remind them that they probably have other children at home who are doing just fine. Even excellent parents need to learn how to structure the environment differently for a child with ADHD."

Hoza says one reason more children may not be receiving behavior modification is because of the commitment it requires of parents. "It's a lot easier to give a child a pill than to teach them how to manage their behavior," she says. "Also, many parents may not know where to go to get help."

Hoza says parents need to ask their local clinics and counselors if they provide behavior modification training. "In some areas there are many people who are doing it, but that's not the case everywhere, so you just have to look for it," she says.

Hoza is part of a national multi-site research project comparing various treatments for ADHD, including behavior management. Results of the long-term study are about two years away.

CONTACT: Hoza, (765) 494-6996; e-mail,

Female drug abusers have more difficulty getting help than men

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Women have more difficulty than men getting drug treatment and sticking with it, according to a Purdue University study.

"Only 31 percent of the clients in drug and alcohol treatment centers are women. But given the numbers of women whom we believe are abusing drugs, the split should be 50-50," says Robert Lewis, Purdue's Norma H. Compton Distinguished Professor of Child Development and Family Studies.

Lewis directed the six-year study of drug treatment therapies for women at centers in the Phoenix area. The study was supported by a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

"Most drug treatment programs in the United States are developed by men, with men and for men," he says. "It's rare that drug treatment takes into account the special needs of women."

The most frequent reasons given by women for discontinuing drug therapy sessions were the lack of child care and transportation. Lewis says often women not only care for young children but also are the primary caregivers for elderly parents or disabled husbands. "Significant others and family members may resist a woman's staying in residential treatment or transporting her to outpatient sessions because this disrupts the family system," he says.

And, if a woman is pregnant, most agencies will not treat her because of liability problems. "Detoxification is difficult for pregnant women," Lewis says. "It's ironic that just at the time when you'd think that we want women to stop abusing drugs, they can't get help."

Other factors that can keep both men and women from receiving drug treatment include cost and availability. Residential programs can costs thousands of dollars. Lewis says women often find few places where they can seek treatment, and the agencies that are accessible to them usually have long waiting lists.

Safety is another factor in getting to treatment centers. "Drug programs rarely are found in the women's own neighborhoods," he says. "Traveling at night -- even in one's own vehicle -- can be dangerous," he says.

CONTACT: Lewis, (765) 494-2931; e-mail,

Dog-vs.-mail-carrier notion barks up the wrong tree

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- It's a common misconception that dogs are especially inclined to take a nip out of mail carriers, says a Purdue University authority on the interaction between people and animals.

"Some dog experts think that dogs are naturally hostile toward uniforms," says Professor Alan M. Beck, director of the Center for Applied Ethology and Human-Animal Interaction. "Dogs don't attack mail carriers just because of the uniform. The No. 1 reason mail carriers get bitten is they keep invading the dog's territory. The same thing would happen no matter what the mail carrier was wearing."

That's because the dog doesn't have time to get acquainted with the intruder and perceives it as a threat each time the yard is entered, Beck explains. A dog's natural instinct is to protect its territory.

In 1995, approximately 2,850 U.S. Postal Service personnel were bitten by dogs. Beck says he's one of the few people to have systematically studied dog bites among letter carriers. In a study of mail carriers in St. Louis, Beck found that nearly all of the bites were from dogs with owners -- not from strays.

He also found that about two-thirds of the carriers said they had more difficulties with dogs when the owners were present. "This indicates that dogs may be more likely to attack when they think they're protecting a family member from an intruder," Beck says.

Familiarity also plays a role, says Beck, especially in situations that are motivated by the dog's territorial behavior. "So a mail carrier who visits the house regularly may be less likely to be bitten than is a total stranger who comes to the house just once," he says. "But if a dog has been aroused by chasing something else just prior to the carrier coming into the yard, then the mail carrier would have a good chance of being bitten, too."

Bites on carriers affect all of us, Beck says, noting that when the carrier is taken off the job, even for a day for medical care and paperwork, it increases the cost of delivering the mail. The dog gets in trouble, too, which is a cost for the owner, he says.

Beck says more research and education need to be done to minimize dog bites for anyone. Steps to take include:

"Ultimately, it's owners who are morally and legally responsible for keeping their pets from causing injury," Beck says.

CONTACT: Beck, (765) 494-0854; e-mail,; Web,
Compiled by Beth Forbes, (765) 494-9723; e-mail;
Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; e-mail,

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