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Maine WCTU chapter takes low-key approach to abstinence

| Sunday, Dec. 8, 2013, 7:39 p.m.

PORTLAND, Maine — The mansion that serves as Maine headquarters of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union lay largely fallow until recently, with drug needles, liquor bottles and pornographic magazines littering the grounds.

In the state where Prohibition had its roots and in a city that just legalized recreational marijuana, the WCTU is overhauling the building and looking to reinvent itself.

Leaders of the organization, which is committed to abstinence, plan to take a lower-key approach, compared with the old days when crusading women terrorized saloon owners.

“We just want to bring a new passion here. It's not that we want to be self-righteous and condemn you because you're drinking or drugging or you're smoking pot,” said the Rev. David Perkins, who is working with his wife to restore the WCTU's Portland chapter. “It's not that. We want to love you but tell you that there are ill effects.”

Last week marked the 80th anniversary of the end of Prohibition and the legalization of marijuana in Portland, Maine's largest city.

In Portland, members of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union, weary of alcohol's harmful effects on families, harassed saloon operators by showing up with Bibles and singing hymns.

“They were formidable. They were the glass-smashers and boundary-breakers of their day,” Perkins said.

Last year, Perkins and his wife, Janet, the Portland chapter president, began the process of rebuilding the WCTU's local presence.

Substance abuse is an issue near and dear to them. Both have dealt with it in their families.

“We find that a lot of people who are on hard drugs had started with marijuana,” Janet Perkins said.

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