GRACE | AFA Journal Staff Writer
The red carpet is nothing new to two-time Emmy-winning actress
Patricia Heaton, commonly known as Debra Barone on the CBS comedy
Everybody Loves Raymond.
"Shes the backbone of the show," Brad Garrett said
of his co-star during a recent visit to Mississippi.
Heaton and Garrett, who plays the role of Debras brother-in-law
Robert, were elevated to a familiar level of star status as they
were welcomed by cheering crowds to the 12th biannual Stars Over
Mississippi education endowment event.
Every other year stars of varied notoriety are invited to Amory,
Mississippi, by entertainment agent Sam Haskell as a means of raising
money for education.
For Heaton, this was her first time to attend the event, but once
again, she was no stranger to her surroundings. Small-town Mississippi
brought back childhood memories of her growing up in a rural environment
where she walked on weathered downtown sidewalks rather than a glamorous
"I grew up in a suburb of Cleveland, and it reminds me very
much of Amory very friendly, family-oriented, everybody knows
each other," Heaton said.
And everybody certainly knew Heaton as she and her husband, producer
David Hunt, made themselves at home in Mississippi for the weekend.
But what many more are coming to find out is that Heaton has a strong
belief in the redeeming power of Jesus Christs death and resurrection
and is not ashamed of her beliefs and values not even in
"I think the bottom line is that God reached down in time and
provided us with a way of reaching Him, which is through Himself
in the person of Christ, and that the act of the crucifixion and
the resurrection was something that was necessary for the whole
world to be able to be reconciled to God," Heaton explained.
"I know personally that my only hope for living in eternity
with God is the work that was done on the cross," she added.
Heaton was raised in a devout Catholic family, and her oldest sister
is a nun. Catholicism was instilled in her as a child, and she grew
up believing in the Trinity. But she admits that her beliefs became
more solidified when her mother died.
"I was just 12 so that sort of makes you have to really examine
your faith," Heaton said.
Although Heatons spiritual upbringing is rooted in the Catholic
Church, later in life she began gravitating toward the Presbyterian
found that I liked the way the Scriptures were taught
in the Presbyterian Church, and I didnt get as much of that
when I was growing up in the Catholic Church," she explained.
"I go to First Presbyterian [Church] of Hollywood now and have
a wonderful family there," Heaton added.
It is this concept of community that Heaton credits as being the
key to living a Christian life in Hollywood.
"I think the most important thing is community," she explained.
"When I first moved to L. A., the first thing I did was look
for a church community and that made the transition to L. A. pretty
seamless because you find that bond with people right away."
However, finding others in Hollywood who share a common bond with
Heaton when it comes to her pro-life stance is more like patchwork,
rather than seamless. Heaton is in the Hollywood minority as far
as valuing the sanctity of human life, but that doesnt stop
her from standing for what she believes.
"Women have been sold up the river, a bit, as far as abortion
goes and a message about empowerment has been twisted,"
"The more we develop our technology the clearer it becomes
to everyone that this is a human being, and I think we have to be
very careful about becoming a utilitarian society where were
trying to be economical about things," she explained.
"I dont think you can put a cost or a price on the value
of human life
. Ultimately, if we dont have a real respect
and an awe and feeling of sacredness toward human beings, then we
dont have anything, then civilization is lost," Heaton
As a means of keeping society civil, Heaton believes it is very
important to provide for women who find themselves with unexpected
"There are so many people who are not willing to go to bat
for women in these situations, and they would just rather sort of
write them off, abort their children, and get them out of the way,"
Therefore, Heaton takes great pride in serving as honorary co-chairman
of a group called Feminists for Life of America (FFL) because she
believes that women with unplanned pregnancies deserve to have unexpected
joy in their lives.
FFL is an organization "dedicated to systematically eliminating
the root causes that drive women to abortion primarily the
lack of practical resources and support through holistic,
woman-centered solutions" (www.feministsforlife.org).
"We feel that the original movement of the feminists has been
high-jacked by some groups today who want to proclaim that abortion
means freedom for women," Heaton said. "But the early
suffragettes were fighting for the freedom to vote, to be able to
own property, and to be treated not as property of their husbands
but as human beings."
Therefore, Heaton explained that it doesnt make sense for
women to treat their own children as property that they can dispose
of as they see fit.
"It really goes against all feminist ideals," she said.
Roe v. Wade
Heaton also views abortion as a means of further oppressing women
who are already treated as sexual objects by society and the media.
Heaton noted a fact many dont realize about the initial push
for the legalization of abortion in the early 1970s. She explained
how Hugh Hefner, founder of Playboy, was instrumental in
funding what led to Roe v. Wade, when the U. S. Supreme Court
legalized unrestricted abortion. "In the 1950s and 60s,
there were still states that outlawed birth control, so I started
funding court cases to challenge that," Hefner told Esquire
magazine in 2002.
"At the same time, I helped sponsor the lower-court cases that
eventually led to Roe v. Wade. We were the amicus curiae
[friend of the court] in Roe v. Wade," he explained.
You can see the mentality here
. They [men] want
to be able to use women and not have to be responsible," Heaton
January marks the thirty-second anniversary of Roe v. Wade.
From 1973 to 1996, there were approximately 36.5 million abortions
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 857,475
legally induced abortions were reported in 2000 (www.cdc.gov).
"I think you have to look at the picture of what does nine
months out of your life compare to giving life to another human
being who will go on for hopefully 80 years," Heaton reasoned.
"Its a small sacrifice, and I think its a way for
people to learn about responsibility and consequences," she
added, although she believes the needed resources and support should
be provided for women with unplanned pregnancies.
Just as Heaton and FFL are challenging society to embrace these
women, the actress is also standing up against the exploitation
and vulgarity so readily fashioned by Hollywood.
In 2003, Heaton, who was scheduled to present a video package at
the televised 30th Annual American Music Awards, left prior to her
presentation because of the vulgar language and sexual innuendoes
Her abrupt departure caught the attention of many in days to follow.
"What I object to in Hollywood is not necessarily vulgarity.
Its vulgarity with no purpose. Its vulgarity with no
message. Its vulgarity for the sake of exploiting vulgarity
Most of the time, its purely an exploitive thing," Heaton
"Jesus was really against all kinds of exploitation,"
It is such exploitation Heaton seeks to keep out of her life and
her home as she strives to balance her career as an actress and
her responsibilities as a mother.
In fact, Heaton is considering taking some time off in the future
and being a full-time mom to her four sons since Everybody Loves
Raymond is in its ninth and final season. "Im
thrilled people really loved the show and [that] I got an opportunity
to do it," she said. "I love to laugh. I love doing comedy."
But she is also excited about the possibility of spending more time
with her sons and further instilling in them the faith and values
that mean so much to her.