Pre-recorded questions about evolution in schools and nude pictures coupled with a new online voting system have some worried that this year’s Miss USA pageant queens may feel pressured to compromise their beliefs in order to win the crown.
The 2011 Miss USA pageant finale will air on Sunday. Ahead of the pageant, some have expressed concern about video questions asking contestants whether evolution should be taught in school and whether they would pose in a "tasteful" nude photo shoot.
Paula Shugart, president of the Miss Universe Organization, which also runs Miss USA, said, "These topics are very relevant and in the news."
Hollywood publicist Angie Meyer challenged that notion saying, "The Miss USA organization is choosing topics that are not only controversial, but intimidating."
Keith Lewis, state pageant director California, New York and New Hampshire, agreed and said the questions will result in undue anxiety.
"They witnessed with Carrie Prejean how a firestorm can create a road kill, and nobody wants to be part of a situation like that again," Lewis told Fox News.
Prejean, the 2009 Miss California, was met with a firestorm of criticism when she told judges that she believed that marriage should be between a man and a woman.
Prejean was later named the first runner up to the crowned Miss USA. Interviewer Perez Hilton, an openly gay gossip blogger, called Prejean a "stupid b----" in a blog video after the contest, saying that he would have gone up on stage and snatched the tiara from her head if she had won Miss USA.
He later apologized.
In the aftermath of the 2009 scandal, Lewis said, "The girls are concerned that there is a right or wrong answer. Polarizing questions often create a situation where you suffer."
A new online voting feature which will allow audience members to decide a semifinalist furthers those fears.
Meyer, also a GOP activist, told USA today she worries that "liberals" will stack the online votes in favor of a like-minded contestant.
Despite concerns of compromising beliefs for the sake of appealing to the public, contestants have so far been open about their values in the pre-recorded questions.
While many contestants expressed an openness to include evolution in public schools, one contestant – Miss Kentucky Kia Ben-et Hampton – said that evolution should not be taught, alluding to the differing opinions expressed in the scientific and religious communities.
Miss Mississippi Keeley Patterson discredited evolution in her answer. "I think evolution should be taught as what it is; it's a theory, so I don't think it should be taught as fact."
A few other contestants including Miss Nebraska Haley Jo Herold, Miss Alaska Jessica Chuckran and Miss New Hampshire LacyJane Folger answered affirmatively, but expressed their desire to see the other side – such as creationism – given equal time in the classroom.
Chuckran said in her answer, "I think it's necessary that evolution is taught in schools ... However, personally, I do not believe in evolution. I believe that each one of us were (sic) created for a purpose by God and that just gives my life so much more direction and meaning."
Miss North Carolina Brittany York responded, "I think it's great to get both sides of the story. I'm personally a Christian so I believe the Bible's version but you can't push opinions or beliefs on children so they need to know every side that's out there. So yes, I do believe that (evolution) should be taught but so should the other side of the story."
On nudity, York said "as long as it's tasteful," she doesn't have a problem with being in a nude photo shoot.
Several other contestants, meanwhile, said they would not reveal their bodies in a nude photo.
Miss Nevada's Sarah Chapman said, "I believe that my body is for just one other person and that would be for my husband." She also added that she respects other people’s right to choose differently.
Online voting is open from now until June 18 at 9 p.m. EST.