Press Release from the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice
Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, and Unitarian Universalist leaders agree with the growing consensus that the presidential election was decided by issues such as war, terrorism and jobs, not unspecified “moral values.” Spurred in part by dislike of the divisive election, the religious progressive movement is being renewed.
“The nation learned an important lesson this year,” said Reverend Carlton W. Veazey, President of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. “Our enemies are intolerance, extremism, and ignorance.”
Religious leaders affiliated with the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice gave a news briefing at the National Press Club in Washington DC. They concurred that questionable interpretations of exit poll results are misleading the nation. No views or values changed because of the election. On one of the supposed hot-button issues, abortion, the percent of Americans in both parties who support reproductive choice in some or most cases remained steady.
“For Catholics, polling has consistently shown that in the majority they want abortion to remain legal, gay Americans to have civil rights, and traditional liberal support for the poor and unemployed to be honored,” Catholics for a Free Choice President Frances Kissling said. “While there is much work progressive people of faith need to do to speak more compellingly to the general public, a solid foundation of social justice will work to mobilize mainstream Catholics."
Political and social conservatives may have turned out in record numbers on Election Day but “it appears their obsession with divisive social issues is not shared by very many Americans,” said Reverend Barry Lynn, Executive Director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. But “the culture war is real, and it’s about to go nuclear,” he said. “This is not a war that the American people want, but it’s one that the Religious Right seems determined to fight.”
An unprecedented number of religious institutions were involved in voter education and registration, including the ecumenical initiative termed Faithful Democracy. Reverend Meg Riley, director of the Unitarian Universalist Advocacy and Witness Program, said that her denomination registered approximately 50,000 voters and built new relationships with other progressive organizations. She likened the 2004 election cycle to the beginning of a period of growth toward greater justice.
The moral issues that concerned most religious Americans were poverty, war, families and children, healthcare, hunger, pollution, and human rights. “We face not a clash between cultures or between red and blue states but a clash between justice and greed,” said Jim Winkler, General Secretary of the General Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church, President George W. Bush’s denomination.
Throughout the nation, progressive people of faith and religions are rallying to positive actions. In California, said Rabbi Steven B. Jacobs of Temple Kol Tikvah in Woodland Hills, the $3 billion stem cell research initiative is a clear indication that Americans do not want ideology to limit their healthcare.
Nationally, said Episcopal Priest Reverend Dr. Katherine Hancock Ragsdale, “the mainstream religious community is awake and we will not be silent. But we’re not just going to identify the lies, distortions, and perversions of the Right. We’ll also be presenting a vision of what America has been when at its best and can be again.”
Reproductive choice is central to that vision and "consistent with democratic values,” concluded Reverend Lloyd H. Steffen of Lehigh University. He challenged progressive religious leaders and scholars to help the nation understand and reject "the dangerous movement to suppress freedom” being waged by those who oppose fundamental values such as reproductive choice.