Progressive Advocacy Groups Call on Democrats to Defend Individual Religious Freedom
Charlotte, NC— During the Democratic National Convention a unique gathering of progressive advocacy groups came together in Charlotte with a message for the Democratic National Committee. They called upon the committee to stand up for people of faith and no faith and not allow conservative politicians and religious leaders to redefine the meaning of religious liberty. At a panel featuring advocacy groups representing millions of Americans from across multiple faith traditions, speakers urged voices of faith to speak up for the real meaning of religious freedom—the protection of the individual conscience.
Catholics for Choice hosted the panel discussion to educate stakeholders and delegates about how progressive advocates and people of faith can stand up and speak out against the intensifying rhetoric of conservative religious leaders that would put the interests of institutions over the conscience of individuals. The panel included speakers from Catholics for Choice, the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, the National Council of Jewish Women and the Charlotte-based Freedom Center for Social Justice. These groups responded to the increasingly heated discourse about religious freedom and called on Democrats to defend individual conscience on issues of marriage rights and access to reproductive health, while standing up to conservatives who would restrict these important issues to any one, narrow faith-based viewpoint.
In today’s panel these groups urged Democrats to ensure that public policy protects the religious liberty of individuals of all faiths and no faith, avoiding policies that impose one religious viewpoint on all.
Catholics for Choice, the National Council of Jewish Women and the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice are all members of the Coalition for Liberty & Justice. At the event they addressed the recent debates over religious liberty healthcare, marriage equality and other issues that affect people of faith this election season. Working in coalition and individually, each of the participating groups strives to influence policies important to their constituencies, informed by their own political perspectives, faith traditions and community priorities.
“The freedom to follow one’s conscience is at the center of our Catholic tradition because it affirms each individual’s moral agency,” said Sara Hutchinson, the domestic program director at Catholics for Choice. “The freedom to decide what is right and act upon that decision does not come in Democratic or Republican varieties. It exists in the human experience of believers and nonbelievers of all ideologies. Those shaping the debates and setting policy on access to reproductive healthcare services should respect the consciences of those seeking to do the best thing for themselves and their families—Catholic and non-Catholic, rich or poor, Democrat or Republican. Protecting our freedom requires nothing less.”
“The principle of religious freedom demands that we be able to make personal decisions about things like healthcare, family planning and marriage based on our own personal needs, moral judgment and religious beliefs,” said Nancy K. Kaufman, CEO of the National Council of Jewish Women. “We are now seeing this very principle repeatedly under attack by religious and political leaders who seek to legislate one particular faith view into law, while claiming their efforts are meant to defend religious freedom. Those of us who have fought for years to secure this right are not fooled by the rhetoric, and other people of faith should not be fooled either.”
“Religious liberty is a very complex subject but one thing is clear: decisions about birth control and abortion should be a matter of individual conscience, not restricted by institutional policy. Individuals—not employers and certainly not government—should be responsible for making decisions about birth control or ending a pregnancy. Religious institutions that demand that their views be adopted as the law of the land are, in fact, seeking to limit the religious liberty of individuals. That many of those groups then claim their own liberties are infringed is the rankest hypocrisy,” said Rev. Harry Knox, President and CEO of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice.
“The thing that makes us mighty as a nation is the thing that makes us complex and that is freedom,” said Bishop Tonyia M. Rawls of the Freedom Center for Social Justice in Charlotte. “In my Christian tradition, God gave free will and it is that very freedom that challenges and provokes in ways that lets the best of our beliefs shine through. Our willingness to lovingly grapple with and provide space for the ‘otherness’ in our neighbors is the way we exhibit the best of who we are, both as people of faith and as a nation.”
For nearly 40 years, Catholics for Choice (CFC) has been the unparalleled leader in addressing sexual and reproductive rights from a standpoint of culture, faith and morality. CFC shapes and advances sexual and reproductive ethics that are based on justice, reflect a commitment to women’s well-being, and respect and affirm the capacity of women and men to make moral decisions about their lives.
The National Council of Jewish Women is a volunteer organization that has been at the forefront of social change for over a century — championing the needs of women, children, and families — while courageously taking a progressive stance on such issues as child welfare, women’s rights, and reproductive freedom.
The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice is the national community of religious and spiritual people, denominations and organizations from all faith traditions dedicated to achieving reproductive justice.
The mission of the Freedom Center for Social Justice is to enhance quality of life by increasing the number of healthy options & opportunities available to low income communities, communities of color, sexual minorities and youth. Our goal is to counter the effects of poverty and all forms of oppression as they impact the lives of those on the margins of society