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Some faith communities in the Twin Cities are increasingly speaking out in favor of abortion rights


Stuck in the flower bed in front of the Edina Community Lutheran Church, a sign on the lawn reads, “People of Faith for Reproductive Rights.”

More than a dozen church members came up with the idea after the leaked opinion of the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization which overturned Roe v. Wade of 1973 guaranteeing the right to abortion.

“They felt it was important to tell the story that there are people of faith who, while they wish we had fewer abortions in our country, they believe that legislating and criminalizing abortion in almost all circumstances is not the way to achieve this,” said Jeff Sartain, co-pastor of the church.

Many Minnesota churches have long been part of the anti-abortion movement, but local religious perspectives on abortion are diverse and often nuanced.

In the months following the overturning of Roe v. Wade by the Supreme Court, a number of faith-based communities in the Twin Cities have begun to publicly support abortion rights, some in new and highly visible ways – from lawn signs to bumper stickers reading “Prohibitions on Abortion.” abortion are against my religion.”

According to the Pew Research Center, at least eight major religious groups — including the Presbyterian Church (USA), Unitarian Universalists, United Church of Christ, Conservative and Reform Judaism, and Evangelical Lutheran Church in America — officially support the right to abortion, although some do so with restrictions. Other religions have no public stance on the issue, while groups such as Catholics for Choice are breaking away from their church’s official anti-abortion stances.

“I think because of the confusion of the anti-abortion movement with Christian messages, people just assume that if you’re a religious person, you’re anti-choice, and that’s never been true. And that’s not true. is definitely not true now,” said Reverend Katey Zeh, an ordained Baptist pastor and CEO of the Washington, DC-based Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice.

Zeh’s group began in the 1960s as an underground network of ministers and rabbis who referred women to abortion providers and later evolved into an interfaith advocacy coalition.

Interfaith advocacy seems to be the model for more recent groups and gatherings. This month, more than three dozen women religious leaders held a fundraiser for reproductive rights in St. Paul. And in January, the Texas-based Spiritual Alliance of Communities for Reproductive Dignity hosted a virtual summit for more than 300 faith leaders and recently rolled out a program for congregations.

The alliance offers discussion guides and educational materials stating that “prayer decisions to have children, not to have children, or to end a pregnancy can be equally moral.”

spoken out loud

When abortion rights protesters let out a collective cry outside the Minneapolis federal courthouse this spring, they were led by Reverend Kelli Clement of the First Unitarian Society of Minneapolis.

Most church leaders aren’t as vocal as Clement, but she said she’s seen an increase in churches wanting to address reproductive rights.

“What I’ve seen now are congregations asking, ‘How can we talk about this in a non-polarizing way? How can we engage with this? ‘” she said.

It was in a 2008 sermon that Clement first spoke publicly about her own abortion and began charting a pastoral path toward what she calls “reproductive justice.”

An intern at the time at the White Bear Unitarian Universalist Church, Clement shared her story (she was in her 20s, struggled with alcoholism, wasn’t ready to be a mother) in a post titled “The choice makes us human”.

“I had never heard him speak out loud, and I had a strong feeling that, well, if I had that experience, other people I know had that experience,” he said. she stated. “In religious life, we talk about real life.”

She had believed that her supervising minister and the congregation would be supportive – and they were.

“A lot of people said to me afterwards, and keep telling me, as I continue to talk about it, ‘I’ve never heard a pastor talk about this. You told part of my story,'” she said.

Bans are “against my religion”

As Rosh Hashanah approaches this month, Macalester Jewish Organization sophomore Gabe Karsh helped set up a table in front of St. Paul’s College Student Center and picked up a shofar.

He gave a blow of a ram’s horn (traditionally blown during the Jewish New Year to arouse the complacent) which attracted attention, which drew a steady stream of students who picked up free magnets reading: “The abortion bans are against my religion”. The students spoke with Karsh, Rabbi Emma Kippley-Ogman, the school’s associate chaplain for Jewish life, and Erica Solomon, executive director of the Minnesota chapter of the National Council of Jewish Women.

Solomon’s organization held “test shots” across the country in the weeks leading up to the holiday, highlighting access to abortion as a significant issue for Jews. While Jewish denominations interpret the issue of abortion in different ways, rabbis such as Danya Ruttenberg, the council’s scholar-in-residence, point to teachings and laws that portray a fetus as part of a person’s body. pregnant, not as a person with rights. They also say their religious values ​​compel them to get involved.

“For us, it’s really important to be proud of the fact that, for Jews and many people who identify with other religious backgrounds, you absolutely can live a religious life that supports abortion rights.” , Solomon said.

“A big part of our values ​​is not just about protecting our rights or those of our families, but also about seeking justice and protecting the rights and dignity of all of our neighbours,” she said. “It is not in spite of our faith, but for us very much because of her that we speak.”

find a voice

The Edina Community Lutheran Church chose to make its sign universal (“People of Faith for Reproductive Rights”) instead of confessional (“Lutherans for Reproductive Rights”). He also ordered 50, hoping other local congregations would display them as well.

A Unitarian Universalist pastor came to get a sign, but most of the others went to congregation members, not other places of worship. The church still has about ten.

“We found that some didn’t want a sign because they were afraid of violence or vandalism,” Sartain said. “Others didn’t have a unity of opinion in their congregation. And then some were just not inclined to have lawn signs for other reasons.”

Along with the panel, the congregation drafted a neat statement that, as Sartain said, “clarified our position as a community,” posted it on the website, and hosted a forum about it. He opposed “both the complete absence of abortion regulation as well as legislation that criminalizes abortion in most or all circumstances”.

It also included this line: “We are convinced that every pregnant person has free will and moral authority to discern what to do.”

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