The Miss America Pageant--which allegedly forced former Miss North Carolina Rebekah Revels to resign her title in July because her former boyfriend bragged to pageant officials that he possessed topless pictures of her--needs to delineate between public qualifications and irrelevant private activities. Chances are most of the contestants have at some point taken their top off, yet this does not mean that they are either bad people or unable to balance a crown on their head.
Considering their contestants parade around in bikinis, it is remarkable that Miss America officials express such moral outrage at a pageant winner showing her breasts. Yet, while pageant officials were wrong to even bring up the issue, Revels should have shown enough courage to stand up for the cause at the time--demonstrating this courage would have been a better indicator of her qualifications.
It is now too late for her, since Thursday a federal judge denied her motion to force the Miss America organization to recognize her as a contestant. He correctly acknowledged that, as a private institution, the pageant could make its own decisions about participants.
But just because the organization is on strong legal ground in its case against Revels, it is on far shakier moral ground. The pageant's actions and moral prudishness have tarnished its reputation.