Monday, September 25, 2006

No Compromise on Women's Moral Agency and GLBT Rights

Jerry Falwell told the participants at the right wing summit this weekend that if Hillary Clinton runs for President it would motivate "his" voters more than the devil running himself. He also told them that their primary objection to Senator Clinton was her pro-choice position, in his words, "the cutting edge for social conservatives".

Read the report of his comments yourself at

Whether we like it or not, the religious right continues to make sexual justice issues the core of their public policy agenda. Last week, Sojourners launched a new campaign they call the "Red Letter Christians." In their press release they wrote,

The goal of the group is to advance the message that our faith cannot be reduced to only two hot button social issues - abortion and homosexuality. Fighting poverty, caring for the environment, advancing peace, promoting strong families, and supporting a consistent ethic of life are all critical moral and biblical values.

And indeed they are. But the Sojourner's campaign is not just about trying to focus moral attention on these pressing human needs. Rev. Jim Wallis, Sojourners' President, has said publicly that he is against abortion and marriage equality. He is not alone in the progressive religious movement in trying to distance himself from sexual justice issues.

I don't often agree with Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, but I did when he told Rev. Wallis on CBS "People are going to have to stand on one side or the other. These are decisions that can't stand in the middle."

Poll after poll tell us that the majority of Americans support the right to privacy in our most intimate decisions, and so I'd like to believe that sexual justice is a mainstream, middle of the road value. But, I for one, along with the more than 2600 religious leaders that are part of the network of the Religious Institute, believe in a faith based commitment to sexual and reproductive rights and full inclusion of women and sexual minorities. I'm not willing to compromise the rights of women or GLBT people to appear more middle of the road; I wonder what it will take for some of my religious leader colleagues to understand that the leaders on the religious right are not going to allow sexual justice issues to fade into the background. As a result, we reaffirm our call to faith leaders and faith communities to be a prophetic voice for sexual and spiritual justice and wholeness.


Pam said...

Some of the issues you bring up, including certain aspects of reproductive rights, and same-sex marriage, potentially affect more than just the two (or more) consenting adults involved.

A report came out today from a group of scholars about balancing children's need for parents with adults' perceived needs to parent. Is the child an object designed to serve the nurtuing needs of the adult (in which case he may justifiably be considered less than human and subject to creation at will, termination of his life, and/or the subordination of his best interests to the desires of others), or is he some kind of independent human person, who has some kind of individual rights to be respected?

These kinds of considerations need to come into the picture when we are looking at issues of sexual justice, and I think some of them account for the gap between some of the religious Sojourner-style Christian progressives and others who advocate for sexual justice including unlimited support for and unrestricted access to abortion rights and same-sex unions.

I would enjoy seeing more careful response by progressives on these issues. Sometimes it's hard to understand how the movement for sexual justice is not just about radical individualism and materialism (i.e., doing what I want when I want, how I want regardless of the effect on other human beings, especially those smaller and more vulnerable than myself, such as children), rather than a coherent program to address the full humanity of all people (including children).

Here's the link to the report I am referencing.

MNW said...

I would enjoy seeing more careful response by progressives on these issues.

As if conservatives offer "careful responses" to these issues. Whatever.

Conservatives oppose the adoption of unwanted children by gay couples. They prefer that children have no parents at all than to be raised in a loving home without a "mother and father". So tell me, Pam, other than the possession of a penis or vagina, what attributes does a mother or father possess that is not possessed by all humans, male or female?

Often when I ask this question I get silly responses about how a young girl needs a mother in order to "know how to be a woman" or something to that affect and similarly a boy needs to "know how to be a man" by having a father. Neither of these ideas is genuine. Neither reflects the reality of the world in which we live. Children do not need a father to know how to be human, or "manly", and neither does a girl need a mother to know how to be "womanly".

People are who they are...we don't model our manliness and womanliness after our parents. We do however, model our love after the love we are shown by our parents. Which begs the question...What affect on a child does not having any parents have on that child's ability to love?

Sparki said...

What's so great about giving women the right to kill their own offspring? It is so short-sighted and anti-female to promote that as a right.

If you actually were to take yourself to an abortion clinic and actually talk to the women there, you'd find out that what feminist author Frederike Matthews-Greene wrote so long ago is really very true: "A woman chooses abortion the way an animal caught in a trap chooses to gnaw off it's own leg."

Most women aren't marching proudly into an abortion clinic, pleased as punch to be able to exercise a constitutional right. Rather, they are choosing abortion because they are under economic pressure to do so ("We're so broke). Or social pressure ("My boyfriend will leave me" or "My parents will kill me" or "I'll be stuck waiting tables for the rest of my life" or "People tell me I'm too young").

A true feminist would look at a woman who was being oppressed financially just because of her female status and say, "No, this must not be allowed" and work to change it. But today's feminists ignore the woman in this situation if the oppression is based on pregnancy.

A true feminist would look at a woman who was being oppressed socially just because of her female status and say, "This is wrong!" and work to change it. But today's feminists ignore the woman in this situation if the oppression is based on pregnancy.

A true feminist would make sure that NO woman would be denied education or career or shelter or comfort of health care, just because she was a woman. But today's feminists ignore the women who are denied these things because they are pregnant.

Why? When pregnancy is the most female of all conditions a woman can experience (if only because men can't get pregnant) -- why would people who claim to be feminists be so adament on further oppressing these women with abortion, instead of removing the barriers that force women to sacrifice their children's lives?

I know it's harder to work at removing the barriers (which is what I have chosen to do), but if all the so-called feminists in this nation got together and DID something about the educational/economical/social oppression of pregnant women, it would really make a difference.

Rev. Debra W. Haffner said...

I found the report Pam mentions very disturbing. Rather than presenting peer reviewed scientific research on what benefits children, it starts with pre-conceived biases against assisted reproduction, marriage equality, adoption by single people and gay couples, and so on. But, even more objectionable, it assumes that progressive people put children second to their own needs. It can't be said enough -- we are pro-family, pro-children, pro-faith, and pro-choice. There is nothing in my life more important to me than my two children, and I know that it is true of my friends and colleagues in our movements as well. I've written two parenting books and am currently writing a third to be published next summer. Pam and Sparki, the central value of the work of the reproductive rights movement for almost a century is that every child deserves to be loved, wanted, and cared for. Perhaps you need to learn more about what we really stand for.

Anonymous said...

I agree that progressives should emphasize responsibility especially with respect to reproductive health and sexuality education issues, but when will we start calling the right on the irresponsible behaviors that they promote, like Joe Scheidler's conference last weekend in Chicago "CONTRACEPTION IS NOT THE ANSWER."

That may be a belief that some people choose to hold for faith or other reasons, but as a matter of public policy is couldn't be more irresponsible and it is time we hold them accountable for the harm they are causing others. My fellow blogger Tyler at RH Reality was at the conference and is doing a series of posts about it because we believe it is important for people to understand how far outside the mainstream the far right has become. Debra, this discussion and those above are inspiring on many levels, great work! Thanks!