Why Religious Leaders are Speaking Up in Support of Universal Contraceptive Access
Valerie Tarico printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Sun Mar 30, 2014 at 01:02:49 PM EST
When the Supreme Court took up the Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Woods cases on March 25, attorneys for the business owners argued that their religious freedom (and that of the corporations!) is being violated by the Obamacare contraceptive mandate. But not all religious leaders agree. In fact, 47 clergy including five current or former presidents of national denominations have released a joint statement arguing that the most significant religious freedom question at issue in the Supreme Court case is the freedom of the individual employees.
As religious leaders, we support universal access to contraception. We believe that all persons should be free to make personal decisions about their reproductive lives, their health and the health of their families that are informed by their culture, faith tradition, religious beliefs, conscience, and community. . . . Including contraceptives as a covered service does not require anyone to use it; excluding contraceptive coverage for those who choose to plan and space their families with modern methods of birth control will effectively translate into coercive childbearing for many.
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A Beleaguered Roe v. Wade at Forty
Bill Berkowitz printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Wed Jan 23, 2013 at 12:59:29 PM EST
On Friday, January 25, three days after the fortieth anniversary of the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision -- which established a woman's constitutional right to abortion -- tens of thousands of anti-abortion protesters will once again hold their annual March for Life rally in Washington D.C. 



While there hasn't been another assassination of a doctor performing abortions since the 2009 murder of Dr. George Tiller -- who performed abortions at his clinic in Wichita, Kansas -- incidents of anti-abortion violence against health  clinics have continued. In 2010, Molotove cocktails were thrown at Planned Parenthood clinics in Madera, California and in north Texas. In January 2012, the American Family Planning Clinic in Pensacola, Florida was firebombed, and in April a bomb exploded on the windowsill of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Grand Chute, Wisconsin.



There have, however, been a series of anti-abortion legislative initiatives that have changed the political landscape, making access to abortion much more difficult.

Yet, despite these initiatives, recent polling has found that the American public continues to support Roe v. Wade.

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Abortion As a Blessing, Grace or Gift--Changing the Conversation about Moral Values
Valerie Tarico printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Sun Jan 13, 2013 at 08:47:13 PM EST
In the 1960's and '70's, compassion driven theologians drove a dialogue that helped to secure abortion rights. Since then, the Religious Right has dominated the conversation. How can we reclaim the high ground in the debate about abortion as a part of thoughtful, wise loving and living?

Most Americans think of childbearing as a deeply personal or even sacred decision. So do most reproductive rights advocates. That is why we don't think anybody's boss or any institution should have a say in it. But for almost three decades, those of us who hold this view have failed to create a resonant conversation about why, sometimes, it is morally or spiritually imperative that a woman can stop a pregnancy that is underway.

My friend Patricia offers a single reason for her passionate defense of reproductive care that includes abortion: Every baby should have its toes kissed. If life is precious and helping our children to flourish is one of the most precious obligations we take on in life, then being able to stop an ill-conceived gestation is a sacred gift. Whether or not we are religious, deciding whether to keep or terminate a pregnancy is a process steeped in spiritual values: responsibility, stewardship, love, honesty, compassion, freedom, balance, discernment. But how often do we hear words like these coming from pro-choice advocates?

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Why Bible Believing Republicans Say What They Do and Actually Mean What They Say about Rape
Valerie Tarico printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Tue Nov 06, 2012 at 12:54:39 PM EST
In recent months, Christians of many stripes have been scrambling to distance themselves, their religion, or their God from Republican comments about rape which now fill a  four column "Rape Advisory Chart". Those Christians who see the Bible as an imperfect human document have reason to distance themselves. Those who see the Bible as unique and perfect revelation, essentially dictated by God to the writers, do not. The perspective that God intends rape babies and that rape pregnancies should be allowed to run their course is absolutely biblical.

To understand why Christian conservatives have backed themselves into such a dark corner, one has to understand the actual contents of the "Good Book" and the moral bind that biblical literalism imposes on believers.  

(3 comments, 2741 words in story)
Why the Religious Right’s NC Constitutional Ban On Gay Marriage Will Hurt the State Economy
Bruce Wilson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Wed May 09, 2012 at 11:32:29 AM EST
The religious right, with Billy Graham himself weighing in, has just convinced North Carolina voters to undermine their own economic well-being. I doubt many North Carolina residents asked, in the abstract, whether they would vote to sabotage their own state's economy would answer "yes!" But that's what 61% of Tar Heel state voters have probably just done.
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Murder of Abortion Docs as Justifiable Homicide
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Fri Feb 18, 2011 at 12:19:16 AM EST
Now that the brouhaha over a proposed bill in the South Dakota legislature that would have redefined the murder of abortion providers as "justifiable homicide" is largely over, and the bill has been tabled, it is worth considering the origins of the idea.
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Is the Religious Right Winning the Battle of Abortion?
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Fri Jun 04, 2010 at 09:05:21 PM EST
I did not expect to write about this stuff again anytime soon.

But here we are.

Last week I pointed out (in response to a recent column by Frank Rich) about how progress on one flash-point of the culture war does not necessarily mean much more than that. Which is to say that these increments are not necessarily evidence that the Religious Right or any of its constituent parts are dead or that the culture wars are over. But since neither assertion is even remotely true and there is a massive body of evidence to the contrary, when a gusher of such evidence reaches the surface of public life, it is impossible to ignore.

The New York Times recently published a major story demonstrating how one important dimension of the so-called culture war is infact widening. The Religious Right is escalating its attacks on access to abortion in the states -- and it is winning many recent battles.

(3 comments, 548 words in story)
When a Lone Wolf Assassin is Not Nuts or Alone
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Sat May 29, 2010 at 11:30:07 AM EST
Dr. George Tiller was serving as an usher at the Reformation Lutheran Church in Wichita, Kansas when Scott Roeder walked up to him and shot him in the head.

The media at the time quickly adopted the lone nut or "lone wolf" theory of the murder. Having studied a number of similar anti-abortion crimes over the years, I said that while the murder may or may not have been a criminal conspiracy, there were very likely at the very least what I call "concentric circles of support". Even when such crimes are carried out alone, they tend to be well-planned and often draw on networks of social, ideological and even logistical support, sometimes unwitting. The murder of Dr. Tiller is best understood, after all, as an assassination -- arguably one of the most high-profile political murders in recent years.  Such support can be hard to prove, especially by the standards of criminal law. But that does not mean it does not exist.

Now, a joint investigation by The Nation and Ms. magazine details what the circles of support around Roeder looked like. This ground-breaking work reveals much about the way that the revolutionary, antiabortion Army of God operates.

(1 comment, 534 words in story)
SOCIAL CONSERVATISM AS A COERCIVE TOOL OF THE STATE
James Veverka printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Wed Jan 27, 2010 at 07:05:19 AM EST
[ed: we're re-posting this brilliant analysis by atheist & libertarian James Veverka because it roundly rebuts Glenn Beck's new documentary "The Revolutionary Holocaust" which paints Nazism as a left-wing phenomenon and claims societal groups Hitler and the Nazis actually targeted were perpetrators of the Holocaust - ignoring the fact that along with Jews, according to the US Holocaust Museum, the Nazi regime threw many communists into concentration camps too.]

PART I: Homosexuality under the governments of religious fundamentalism, fascism, and Stalinism

Uncomfortable as it makes people to compare religion with dictatorships, the most dangerous dictatorships of the 20th century were also radically socially conservative in regards to family values and sexuality. Whether it was the Motherland, the Fatherland or the Christian Nation, the same rigid moral message of intolerance runs through them.

Like religious conservatives throughout history and indeed, in the present, they used the state as a coercive tool to force their version of a conscience upon the rest of people. While only one-third of people generally tend to be socially conservative, this does not make a difference to those possessed with the compulsion to force their morality upon all others for their own good. This is not to say fundamentalists and other religious extremists are Nazis or Stalinists, but that they hold very similar views on these 'family values' and sexuality subjects and employ similar language in their positions and propaganda. They represent similar dangers to free societies as they always have throughout all of western history.

(3 comments, 7960 words in story)
Loaded Language on Abortion
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Wed Dec 23, 2009 at 04:59:52 PM EST
Media Matters has a rebuttal of columnist Michael Gerson's distortions of what the Senate version of the health care bill does and doesn't do with regard to abortion coverage. But I want to highlight a further point from Gerson's text that will be of ongoing importance long after the current Battle of the Bills -- and that's Gerson's use of an important code word of Religious Right anti-abortionism.

But first let's note that Gerson is a former speech writer for George W. Bush, steeped in the Religious Right who has used his nationally syndicated Washington Post column to shill for the notoriously schismatic and antigay Nigerian Anglican Archbishop Peter Akinola.  

(1 comment, 750 words in story)
More Creeping Religious Rightism in the Democratic Party
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Sat Dec 12, 2009 at 04:06:06 PM EST
I was more than a little suprised. Although I have been around politics and reported on the adventures of the Religious Right and society's difficulties in understanding and coping with this powerful movement for many years, even I was gobsmacked by this one.  

Beltway Insiders including the president had determined that the historic anti-abortion Hyde Amendment (which, renewed annually, proscribes the use of federal funds to pay for abortion, primarily via Medicaid) is the moderate, compromise, "abortion neutral" position when discussing health care reform.  "How," I wondered, "did the most significant anti-abortion legislation in history become a moderate compromise?"  I reported on this at the webzine Religion Dispatches this week (and diaried about it at Daily Kos).

One may agree or disagree with the president and other Washington insiders that this was the only way to get health care reform passed. But whatever the outcome of the health care debate, what has been sacrificed should not go unnoticed and unremarked upon. And indeed, leaders on both sides are recognizing the magnitude of what has occurred.

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Anti-Abortion Strategy in the Age of Obama
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Tue Dec 08, 2009 at 10:20:28 PM EST
Whatever the final outcome of the debate about abortion and health care reform, the anti-abortion movement is ginned up for the Democratic era.

I have a new essay Anti-Abortion Movement in the Age of Obama coming out in the next issue of The Public Eye magazine (full disclosure, where I am on the ed board), published by the progressive think tank, Political Research Associates.  

We have seen over the past few years a certain creeping Religious Rightism in the Democratic Party, and yet people were surprised that abortion became a major obstacle to health care reform. This is what happens when we turn a blind eye to the religious right and engage in such wishful notions as "the religious right is dead" and "the culture wars are over."

Excerpts on the flip:

(1 comment, 1886 words in story)
Abortion Politics
wilkyjr printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Tue Nov 03, 2009 at 11:21:05 AM EST
The late Jerry Falwell once claimed in one of his newspapers that Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Jesse Jackson and Ted Kennedy all had  earlier held one political position they agreed on.  They were all pro- life.  An L.A. Times author once asked me about W.A. Criswell's early pro-choice position.    Criswell was once president of the Southern Baptist Convention.  At the time he was president he held pro-choice views.  Years later, when pro-life became the trend in his circles; Criswell changed his views and used his influence to bash any politician who advocated tolerance for abortion choices.  The head of the Christian Life Commission during this time, Foy Valentine, was supportive of abortion rights and spoke openly of such.  In historical context, Baptists at the time were in opposition to Vatican claims that saving the life of a mother was not a moral choice. Baptist doctrinal statements often were based on opposing Catholic views.
(4 comments, 671 words in story)
Southern Baptist Gals
wilkyjr printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Mon Dec 08, 2008 at 11:12:30 AM EST
There is an old parody of a Beach Boys song that goes something like this; "The Presbyterian girls are hip, I really dig those clothes they wear, and the Methodist girls with the way they kiss, they keep their  boy friends warm at night..but I wish they all could be Southern Baptist girls..."
(4 comments, 658 words in story)
Will Bush Pardon an Antiabortion Terrorist?
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Sat Dec 06, 2008 at 11:57:33 AM EST
There is an effort underway by Rev. Michael Bray, a convicted terrorist and a leader of the underground Army of God network to free one of their captured members. Shelly Shannon, (aka "Shaggy West") is serving a long sentence for the attempted murder of Dr. George Tiller and for a series of arsons across the West in the 90s. Bray is organzing a petition requesting that president Bush pardon her before his term expires. In his letter to the president, Bray describes Shannon "as a biblical Deborah or Jael or a Joan of Arc."

I have written a great deal about Bray and the Army of God, which has played a central role in the politics of abortion in our time, and has been driving force behind many of the 17 murders and hundreds of bombings and arsons that have ravaged womens reproductive health facilities and staff over the past few decades.  And while I doubt that Bray's effort will succeed in getting Shannon released, the campaign serves as an opportunity to highlight just a few aspects of this particularly dark side of the war of aggression being waged by the religious right against the civil and constitutional rights of others -- that pundits euphemize as "the culture war."

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