Rev. Marti Keller
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
I am not and never have been a Time Magazine subscriber.
At one time in my much younger life someone paid for a year’s worth of Newsweek, which I enjoyed, but not enough to continue. But when I caught a morning talk show interview with editor-in-chief Nancy Gibbs previewing and promoting a Time special project— Firsts-women who are changing the world, I went in determined search of the September 18 issue.
I learned that if you are not a signed up paid reader, it was not easy to score a copy, at least not in a timely manner. It took several return trips to the Barnes and Noble periodical section, and an expedited delivery purchase on ebay (mailed carefully in do-not-bend packaging). I tore it open, eager to read about what Gibbs had described as the “experiences of women who were pioneers in their field,” hopefully in a positive way. The venture had taken more than a year, after having been proposed by Kira Pollack, the magazine’s director of photography and visual enterprise. What began as a series of portraits, in the words of the editor-in-chief, quickly evolved into a multimedia project including dozens of interviews and a book.
What were the “striking themes”? Continue reading
Labor Day has come and gone in 2017. What began as a nationwide day to recognize the contributions and trials of American workers has become, in most ways, the last three-day summer weekend consisting of cookouts and festivals and trips to school supply stores to fill carts with pencils, notebooks, and lunch boxes.
This year, Labor Day was also shadowed by the damage inflicted by Hurricane Harvey and the threat of an even more devastating category five storm making its way from Africa across the Atlantic, heading for the Caribbean, most likely Florida, and beyond. These climatic weather events — along with the news of a looming presidential announcement about the insecure future of thousands of young people in the DACA program — focused attention away from issues like the gender pay gap, family leave, and affordable childcare.
In the midst of the always-hyperactive news cycle there were, however, timely articles and op-ed pieces — notably in the New York Times — that lifted up the status of working women in this country. And the news is not favorable. Continue reading