Leaping from Our Spheres
Despite calls to delay hearings on this administration’s second chance to shape the Supreme Court for years to come until after the November elections, or at least until after Senators have had the chance to read through much delayed background documents on the current nominee, the hearings have begun.
Shortly before the beginning of the Senate Judiciary committee proceedings on the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) the New York Times published an analysis of how a Supreme Court shaped by Trump could restrict access to abortion. The just-departed Judge Anthony Kennedy was described in the article as a “cautious supporter of abortion rights.” Based on what is known about Kavanaugh, if confirmed “the Supreme Court would have a conservative, five member majority that would most likely sustain sharp restrictions on access to abortion in the United States,” the Times speculated.
Even if this court does not overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark case that legalized abortion nationwide as a constitutional right, this SCOTUS could (in its most extreme rulings and considered very unlikely) rule that fetuses are persons protected by the constitution. Therefore, abortion would be murder. Or the court could abolish the right to privacy, decided in a decision on the legality of contraceptives in 1965, eliminating the legal foundation for the right to abortion as well as birth control and same sex marriage.
Most likely, according to the New York Times analysts, a court with a conservative majority would allow states to impose new restrictions on abortion, reinterpreting what “undue burden” is in terms of access to safe legal abortions. It could “interpret that standard narrowly,” allowing states to impose more and more barriers to access and much more leeway to restrict abortions.
Reproductive rights would, in all likelihood, be under attack for the foreseeable future. Because of these harrowing possibilities, the UUWF has signed on to two letters calling for careful scrutiny of, and pointed questions to, Judge Kavanaugh in the course of Senate deliberations on his nomination to the SCOTUS. One letter focused on separation of church and government and the other, more specifically, on threats to reproductive choice including access to abortion nationwide.
We have joined with 36 other national, faith-based, nontheist, and religious liberty organizations to “share a commitment to individual freedom and the separation of religion and government.” In this letter to all U.S. Senators, we pointed to the dissent Judge Kavanaugh wrote in Priests for Life v U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. He sided with a religious organization that argued that filling out a form to request a religious exemption from providing insurance coverage for birth control burdened its religious exercise. He was at odds with eight of the nine federal appeals courts that heard challenges on the same religious exemptions. In our letter, we expressed concerns that Judge Kavanaugh “could require the government to carve out religious exemptions even when they would cause real harm to other people.”
UUWF has signed a second interfaith letter, this one to the Senate Judiciary Committee, stating that “we are deeply troubled by Judge Kavanaugh’s record of statements and decisions on issues related to reproductive health and the right to make private decisions without impediment or imposition.”
“We fear that Judge Kavanaugh, if confirmed, will not uphold the right of each pregnant woman to make the choice for her circumstances—including the choice to seek an abortion—by her own conscience in consultation with her doctor, faith, and values… Judge Kavanaugh’s views on the civil right to choose abortion and the sacred right to bodily autonomy gives us great pause over his confirmation to the highest court of our land.”
“In light of President Trump’s explicit promise to nominate Justices who will overturn Roe, and of Judge Kavanaugh’s past statements and rulings, we urge the Committee to carefully scrutinize Judge Kavanaugh’s entire record and demand clear, direct, and substantive answers. We further hope the Senate will reject any nominee who will not safeguard individual moral agency or the fundamental principles of religious freedom enshrined in our Constitution.”
When I was a new minister, I served a UU congregation in a small Southern town that, on the surface, was a popular weekend tourist destination: a place to go gold panning, visit the burgeoning wineries, grab a bite on the historic square.
But in the back “hollers,” the vestiges of hard scrabble Appalachia remained and remains, with children—I heard and came to know—who were more often than not too cold (because heating bills went unpaid) in the mountain winters to make it up for school. There were church charities and a community “helping place” to help fill the gap between inconsistent and low wage paychecks and need. But it was not enough in a reliable way to alleviate the suffering—or the pull up by your bootstraps shame—that dogged the lives of these poor rural households. Continue reading
This past Tuesday was Equal Pay Day – the date each year up to which American women must work to earn what men earned in the previous year, according to the National Committee on Pay Equity.
We join with the National Women’s Law Center and other organizations in declaring that equal pay is crucial for all women, and that much greater pay disparities for women of color and women with disabilities must be addressed forcefully and intentionally in an ongoing way.
Last year our Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) General Assembly passed a statement of conscience on escalating economic inequality in this country, stating that “our principle of justice, equity and compassion in human relations drives us to work for healthier and more equitable economic systems.” We declared the imperative for a moral economic system that would include equal pay for equal work and elimination of racial, ethnic and gendered wage and wealth gaps. Continue reading
By Debra Greenwood
For those of us who have experienced the type of sexual harassment, abuse, or rape that is such a topic in the news today, there may be a mixture of feelings: relief that, finally, women are being believed and taken seriously about these assaults on us; anger that this type of abuse is so pervasive; and sadness that it continues to this day. Far too many girls and women have not experienced the human right of body integrity. Far too many (mainly men) have invaded us, disregarded us, and then discarded us.
There is a bittersweet irony to these allegations suddenly being taken seriously. This irony is not lost on those of us who are members of the “least of these” groups. Although it is definitely a good thing that women are finally being believed and action is being taken by corporations to minimize their legal exposure by purging their ranks of serial abusers, we all know that this type of behavior has gone on for a LONG time. From the time of American slavery, white, male slave owners have used their position of authority and power to rape enslaved women and children. In more recent times, housekeepers of color – who have worked for rich, white men – have been sexually victimized by their employers. Desperate to keep their jobs, there has been little or no recourse, save resignation, for these women. In order to eat, they’ve had to endure the abuse. The fact that these women were victimized made no real impact on society. It wasn’t until white women were more widely abused that women were believed and action taken. Much like the Catholic sexual abuse scandal, it wasn’t until men revealed their abuse that the whole scandal blew up and became such a blight on the church.
The lack of concern for people of color and women is a social ill that will take a lot of work to correct. It will require all of us to do soul searching and the necessary work to rid ourselves and our society of this thinking. It is work that must be done. The courageous among us have already begun this work and we are grateful for what they are doing.
However, with regard to the prevention of sexual abuse, there is work that we, as women, must do now. We must seize the time and drive the narrative of how these egregious acts are prevented and punished. It is not enough to be satisfied that our secrets are being revealed and taken seriously. We must take responsibility for our own liberation from this social scourge. We have to be the leaders in retooling social thought on how women and men experience body integrity and respect for the body integrity of others.
Prevention of these heinous and life-altering acts is the gift we give to the countless girls and boys who might be future victims.
Fortunately, work on this issue has already begun. Parents are being discouraged to “offer up” their children to family friends and relatives for hugs and kisses. Let the child decide if they want to be touched. Discussion about body integrity must be taught from an early age regarding a person’s right to allow or reject touching – of any kind.
There are many issues for us to address in this current scandal:
- How do we regulate workplace behavior so that all workers are free of unwanted comments and behaviors?
- If more women were in positions of power and authority, would women still experience sexual harassment at current levels?
- What should the consequences be of violating the body integrity of others? Warnings? Treatment? Termination of employment? Arrest?
- Why are employers paying for the unethical/illegal behavior of their employees? Shouldn’t the offender be financially responsible for his/her behavior?
- Should our tax payer money be used to pay off victims of sexual harassment/abuse?
- How can women be assured a seat at the table when these issues are addressed?
My sisters, the time is NOW to come together for our common welfare. And when we come together, be mindful of who has a seat at your table. Is there diversity in age, color, sexual orientation, physical/mental ability, and class? Do those at your table have a real voice or are they just there as window dressing? Our power and our wisdom are in our diversity.
We can do this. We must do this….
Debra Greenwood is still a 1960s activist in 2017. She is impressed by the way young people of today organize and learns a lot from them. Along the way she has earned an RN and a PhD in Clinical Psychology. She is married to her partner of 21 years, Ida Miller. She is happiest when working to improve the world in some small way.
By Rev. Dr. Cynthia L. Landrum
I’ve been involved with Girl Scouts USA for eight years as a troop leader and one year as a Juliette mentor – a guide for an independent Girl Scout. But when I first got involved with Girl Scouts, I was cautious. Like many people, I didn’t fully understand that the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts are two completely different and separate organizations. And like many progressives and Unitarian Universalists, I had significant differences with the Boy Scouts – who, at that time, did not include atheist scouts and gay, bisexual, and transgender scouts – and still don’t clearly include atheist scouts by national policy. So I looked into Girl Scouts carefully.
What I learned quickly about Girl Scouts was that they were already progressive and open in these areas. While not perfect in their inclusion, they go a long way. So, while the word “God” is included in the Girl Scout Promise, Girl Scouts has allowed girls to substitute wording appropriate to their beliefs for the word “God” since 1993.[i] Some atheists many find their language about faith still too confining, but as an agnostic Humanist, I have substituted words like “earth,” “love,” and “peace” while saying the Girl Scout Law. Continue reading