WASHINGTON (April 22) - Declaring its national board and local chapters overwhelmingly against it, the National Organization for Women said today it will not file legal papers on behalf of Paula Jones in her sexual harassment lawsuit against President Clinton.
NOW President Patricia Ireland told a news conference the women's group believes such a ''highly charged political'' lawsuit should not be used as a test case for stopping sexual harassment in the workplace.
Ms. Ireland also said her group ''decided not to work with the disreputable right-wing organizations and individuals advancing her cause, who themselves have a long-standing political interest in undermining our movement to strengthen women's rights and weakening the laws that protect those rights.''
NOW did not poll its membership, Ms. Ireland said, but it was clear from contacts with about 500 chapters around the country that the local groups opposed filing a friend-of-the-court brief, by margins of at least 8-to-1 and possibly 10-to-1.
''Hard cases make bad law,'' Ms. Ireland said. The conservative Rutherford Institute, which is financing legal expenses for Mrs. Jones, and her spokeswoman Susan Carpenter McMillan ''are using this case to advance their own political agendas,'' she said.
Decrying the political positions of the institute, Mrs. Carpenter McMillan and other ''women's rights opponents,'' Ms. Ireland said: ''Paula Jones has surrounded herself with a phalanx of politically motivated lawyers.''