From "The Ethics of Moralism: AIDS, Religion and Public Policy," a paper written by the Rev. Reginald G. Blaxton, special assistant to Mayor Barry for religious affairs:

On Sunday, Feb. 15, in upstate New York, the Rev. Carl Tichener took a box filled with three packs of condoms from behind his lectern and began distributing them to church members in the front row. Tichener said: "By the turn of the century, there will be 100,000 deaths from AIDS. . . . If we do not get this information out rapidly, this country is facing in the future an epidemic that will make the bubonic plague and the black plague pale by comparison."

There are several important elements of public health policy in Pastor Tichener's statement. AIDS is properly defined as a public health, not a moral, problem. . . .

It is Pastor Tichener's departure from traditional religiously based moralism that makes this story so newsworthy. . . .

There is, among religious authorities, no consensus whatsoever on the theological significance of AIDS or on what would constitute a religious approach to an issue of public health. According to The Washington Times, at the same time that Tichener was distributing condoms inside his church, a group of persons staged a protest in front of the church building, arguing that the distribution of condoms did not constitute an appropriate religious response to the issue of AIDS. Tichener and the protesters cannot both be right. . . . Therefore, in the absence of a consensus in the religious community on the direction and propriety of public health policy, public officials must proceed to formulate policy on the basis of the best scientific data available. The formulation of public health policy should not be sensitive to theological concern