Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Why Doesn't Compassion Include Women and GLBT Persons?

The Religious Institute's newsletter goes out tomorrow morning. I've just finished my editorial and wanted to share part of it with my blog readers. Our monthly e-newsletter is free; if you aren't receiving it and would like to, send an email to info@religiousinstitute.org and we will add you to the list.

Here's what I said:

I keep hearing Eve Ensler exhorting all of us there to “be braver, be bolder” to stop violence against women.

I couldn’t help but think of those words as I watched the so-called “Compassion Forum” sponsored by Faith in Public Life on CNN this past Sunday night. Although I support and indeed applaud Faith in Public Life for holding this discussion of faith and politics, compassion toward women and sexual minorities was largely missing. The discussed 'compassion issues" are intimately connected with racism, sexism, and homophobia.

One cannot adequately address poverty, health care, and the economic justice without acknowledging women's needs for reproductive health services. It is poor women who suffer most when contraception, emergency contraception, and abortion services are not readily available, both in the United States and around the world. Similarly, it is poor same-sex couples who are most affected by laws prohibiting the benefits of civil unions and marriage, and poor transgender persons who have no access to medical treatment. Yet, rather than asking the candidates about how they would reduce unplanned pregnancies, sexual exploitation, violence against women, discrimination against LGBT persons, and so on, the moderators asked about their favorite Bible stories and whether they think life begins at conception.

Senator Clinton apparently “forgot” that she has sponsored legislation on sex education and family planning services, never using those words at all; instead she repeated “abstinence” and “adoption” as how she would make abortions “rare.” Remarkably, only one woman religious leader was called on to ask a question; indeed, the majority of the religious leaders who had the opportunity to speak were white male Evangelical Christians. How did that happen in 2008? And neither the candidates nor the questioners took the opportunity to talk about compassion for the struggles of LGBT persons, even while the debate took place at Messiah College, a college that on its web site promotes such anti-gay organizations as Exodus, Homosexuals Anonymous, and the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality."

On April 7th, the Religious Institute sponsored an all-day colloquium for progressive religious leaders and leaders of sexual and reproductive health organizations to discuss how together we can raise a progressive voice on sexual justice during the coming election season. More than 30 leaders agreed that we must do more to assure that reproductive justice and justice for LGBT persons are not buried under calls for common ground. We count on their organizations speaking out each and every time these issues are ignored or dismissed. I hope and pray that you, too, will speak out for sexual justice in your faith community, in your state, and in national debates in the coming months. Together, we must amplify the voices of people of faith who support women’s moral agency, who support sexuality education and sexual and reproductive health services, who support full inclusion and marriage equality, and bring them into the public square.

To quote Eve Ensler, we must all be braver and bolder.

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