The attitude towards abortion policy varies widely among the American clergy


James Altman is a Roman Catholic priest in Wisconsin, and was not known much outside of his parish until a few weeks ago. Robert Jeffress is the pastor of the large Dallas Baptist Church. They have a common message for members of their faiths: To vote for Democrats who support abortion rights is an evil that deserves eternal condemnation.

Their fierce and overtly biased rhetoric is striking, but remains the exception in America’s diverse religious landscape, even in this divisive election year. Most clerics, including abortion opponents, avoid publicly endorsing or denouncing political candidates. Many denominations attempt to frame their stance on abortion in ways that respect multiple viewpoints.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, for example, has committed itself for three decades by a nuance Policy It aims to respect the pioneers of the church from all sides of the debate.

“We say abortion should be seen as a last resort, but we are defending a woman’s right to make decisions about her body,” said Bishop Paul Egensteiner, who chairs the ELCA’s Metropolitan New York Congregation.

The National Association of Evangelists, which represents about 45,000 churches, declares in A. Policy statement She “actively, enthusiastically and steadfastly opposes abortion on demand,” yet at the same time advocates civility.

“We do not exclude those who advocate legal access to abortion as unconcerned or unworthy of our respect and attention,” the report states.

These postures and tones differ sharply from those recently introduced by Altman and Jeffries.

“You can’t be Catholic and you can’t be a democrat,” Altman said in a video posted on YouTube, warning people to “repent of your support for this party and its platform, or face the fires of Hell.” His comments were criticized by many Catholics, while others supported them, such as Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler Parish, Texas.

Jeffress, the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas and a close ally of Donald Trump, uses similar strong language in denouncing the president’s opponent.

“As long as Joe Biden and the Democratic Party continue to support unrestricted abortion for any reason and at any stage of pregnancy, priests and pastors like me will have no problem saying, ‘Only Christians who sold their souls to Satan will vote,’ Jeffress said via e-mail: Joe Biden.

Jeffreys Church belongs to the Southern Baptist Convention, and is the largest Protestant denomination in the country. Its leadership adopted a tough stance against abortion nearly 40 years ago and it is still in effect.

Daniel Patterson, vice president of the public policy arm of the Southern Baptists, said that most of the sect’s pastors do not engage in party politics from the tribune, although they are free to address abortion and other issues they deem appropriate.

Reverend Kevin Smith, executive director of the Baptist Convention in Maryland / Delaware and a senior black leader in SBC, has criticized Christians who assert their opposition to abortion while downplaying the problem of racism, and have objected to partisanship invading some churches.

“While many so-called priests await morning talking points from their chosen political party, many are failing in a basic pastoral mission,” he tweeted last month.

Earlier this month, the National Association of Evangelicals released A. statement Repent of shortcomings in the fight against poverty and racial inequality. She pledged to “resist co-optation with political agendas” and support “a comprehensive, pro-life ethic that protects both the unborn and the vulnerable of all ages.”

The association’s president, Reverend Walter Kim, said many NAE pastors preach about different policies but most shun political support.

NAE Board Member, Reverend Mitch Hescox, is CEO of Evangelical Environment Network, Which urges pastors to expand the concept of “pro-life” to include efforts to protect the environment.

“Priests should care about the people, rather than embrace politics,” said Hiscox. “We are meant to be a voice for our values ​​and not choose sides.”

Some major Protestant denominations have official positions in support of reproductive rights.

Reaching an abortion, says the Episcopal Church, 2018 Precision“An integral part of a woman’s struggle to assert her dignity and worth.”

The Unitarian Church of Christ follows a similar policy. Its president, Reverend John Dorhauer, said he was angry at warnings by some pastors that churchgoers risked betraying their faith with their political choices.

He said, “Telling a member of conscience and a moral agency that voting for a particular party or candidate is a violation of one’s belief is, in my humble opinion, immoral and unethical.”

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, known for its conservative social views, Says Abortion violates church teachings and can lead to excommunication.

However, the Church says that exceptional circumstances may justify some abortions, such as when the pregnancy is the result of incest or rape or when a woman’s health is at risk.

Matthew Bowman, professor of history and religion at Claremont University Graduate School of Studies, said most church members are against abortion but that its leaders have not used the issue as a political outcry.

In Judaism, the largest non-Christian faith in America, abortion has not been politicized as it is in Christian denominations. Both the conservative and reform branches say that abortion is acceptable under various circumstances, and the decision is up to the woman concerned.

Rabbi Avi Shafram, a spokesman for Agudath Israel of America, said Orthodox Jews are more open to restrictions on elective abortion.

But his Orthodox organization “will not support any law that gives the unborn child a“ personality, ”since the Jewish religious law advises abortion in some rare cases, Shafan said via e-mail.” Nevertheless, we would like to see abortion treated with more seriousness, As more than just a “woman’s choice.”

For many American Muslims, abortion “is fundamentally not an issue,” according to Attia Aftab, who heads the Center for Islamic Life at Rutgers University.

“Since the formative days of Islamic law more than 1,000 years ago, classical scholars have taken different positions on abortion, from its permissibility to its prohibition,” she said by email.

New Islamic theologians have made various judgments, including when to start life. Abortion is usually frowned upon if poverty is the motive, but acceptable if the woman’s health is at risk.


The Associated Press religious coverage receives support from the Lily End Foundation through News of Religion. The AP is solely responsible for this content.


Copyright 2020 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.

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