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Calif pageant eyes Prejean for contract violations

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LISA LEFF | May 5, 2009 09:20 PM EST | AP

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SAN FRANCISCO — The directors of the Miss California USA pageant are looking into whether title holder Carrie Prejean violated her contract by working with a national group opposed to same-sex marriage and by posing semi-nude when she was a teenage model.

Pageant spokesman Roger Neal said Tuesday it appears Prejean has run afoul of several sections of the 12-page contract that all prospective contestants were required to sign before competing in the November state contest.

The detailed document prohibits the titular Miss California from making personal appearances, giving interviews or making commercials without permission from pageant officials. In the last 10 days, Prejean has made televised appearances at her San Diego church and on behalf of the National Organization for Marriage, a group opposed to same-sex marriage.

The contract also contains a clause asking participants to say whether they have conducted themselves "in accordance with the highest ethical and moral standards." As an example, it asks if they have ever been photographed nude or partially nude.

"As you can see from the contract, she violated multiple items," Neal said in an e-mail to The Associated Press.

A photo of Prejean wearing only pink panties with her back turned to the camera appeared Monday on the gossip blog theDirty.com. She issued a statement early Tuesday saying she posed for the shot when she was a 17-year-old model and objected to its release as an attempt to belittle her religious faith: "I am a Christian, and I am a model. Models pose for pictures, including lingerie and swimwear photos."

Prejean spokeswoman Melany Ethridge said she could not comment on the contract because she was unfamiliar with its contents. Ethridge said she had not heard the pageant directors were reviewing it.

Prejean, a San Diego native who attends San Diego Christian College, was named the first runner-up to Miss North Carolina in the Miss USA pageant April 19. Her response to a question during the pageant that she opposed same-sex marriage made her a media sensation, darling of religious conservatives and the target of embarrassing disclosures.

Her post-pageant activities also have estranged her from the two directors of the state pageant, who under the terms of the contract have almost unlimited control over Miss California's activities, including the right to revoke her crown for breaching its provisions.

On the day last week that Prejean was in Washington with National Organization for Marriage leaders to announce her support for a new advertisement the group created based on her pageant experience, Keith Lewis, co-director of the California contest, expressed concern.

"There is a contract that all participants sign that is very involved and very intricate and limits a lot of their activities," said Lewis, a Los Angeles talent agent.

Meanwhile, the Miss Universe Organization, which also owns the Miss USA pageant, confirmed Tuesday that it had sent a letter demanding the National Organization for Marriage to remove the Prejean spot from the air and the group's Web site. It includes footage from the April 19 pageant.

The Miss Universe Organization "neither sanctions nor disapproves of the viewpoints expressed in the advertisement but cannot allow its copyrighted material to be used without permission to support the National Organization for Marriage's political agenda and fundraising efforts," organization President Paula Shugart said.

NOM executive director Brian Brown said the group did not plan to comply with the pageant's request.

"It is clearly fair use, and all they are attempting to do is silence us by using false legal claims," Brown said. "But they have another thing coming if they think these ads are coming down. None of us are relenting, least of all Carrie."

NOM President Maggie Gallagher also issued a statement Tuesday sympathizing with Prejean over the release of her modeling picture and saying it did not disqualify her as a traditional marriage advocate.

"Of course Carrie is not perfect," Gallagher said. "On a personal note, as a former unwed mother, I want to say to Americans: You don't have to be a perfect person to have the right to stand up for marriage."