Do clergy not have a responsibility to provide public witness and guidance on moral issues like abortion? A group of faith and community leaders in Iowa says no.
Last week, 62 Mainline Protestant clergy alongside other faith and community leaders signed an open letter in support of abortion in Iowa, Life Site News reported. The letter appeared in the Des Moines Register where the faith leaders assert abortion is a constitutional issue, not theological.
The letter states:
There is a broad spectrum of beliefs within the faith community regarding the beginning of life. We do not wish to debate that issue because, quite simply, our personal religious beliefs are not relevant to the legal debate. Our personal religious beliefs should not be the driver of public policy.
Every person has the right to their own personal and religious beliefs and to live their life how they determine is best for them. The government does not have the right to infringe on the freedoms or privacy of Iowa women based on those religious beliefs.
The letter is co-signed by clergy from the United Methodist Church, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), United Church of Christ, American Baptist, and Episcopal Church.
Other signatories represent Reformed Judaism, Unitarian Universalism, and ULC Humanist.
The religious leaders’ abortion activism is motivated by Iowa’s Senate File 359, the Fetal Body Parts bill, which includes language prohibiting abortion once a baby’s heartbeat is detectable. An exception includes a medical emergency. The clerics oppose the bill, which could ban abortion as early as six weeks gestation.
Instead of sending Senate File 2281 (a bill that would prevent the abortion of all unborn babies with a heartbeat) out of committee, heartbeat language will now be attached to Senate File 359, a bill that prohibits a person from knowingly acquiring, providing, receiving, otherwise transferring, or using fetal body parts in the state of Iowa.
Despite arguing that their faith and religious beliefs are irrelevant to abortion matters, the religious leaders had no problem calling the pro-life legislation “immoral” and “wrong.”
“What is relevant is our respect for Iowa women and their constitutional right to privacy in making their own medical decisions,” the letter continued. “Another person’s theological understanding of when life begins cannot trump the rights of women.”
Thankfully, Senate File 359 passed through the Iowa House Human Resources Committee on Thursday, March 17. Caffeinated Thoughts reports the bill now proceeds to Iowa’s House of Representatives for a vote.
If the ethical determination of a soul’s dignity does not encompass theological arguments, then perhaps the clergy should consider an alternative calling. (Not to mention the United Methodist clergy are at odds with their denomination’s stance on abortion.)
For what purpose then do these clergy serve the public? If they cannot provide society with the most basic direction on innocent life and death, advance compassion or justice for the vulnerable, then they’ve rendered themselves irrelevant.
The letter’s 68 co-signers are:
Connie Ryan, executive director, Interfaith Alliance of Iowa
Laurie Haller, Resident Bishop, Iowa Conference of The United Methodist Church
Rev. Brigit F. Stevens, Executive Conference Minister Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota Conferences of the UCC
Rev. Mary Newbern-Williams, Executive Presbyter, Presbytery of Missouri River Valley
Rev. Dr. Richard Guentert, Former Regional Minister and President, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the Upper Midwest Region
The Rev. Wendy K Abrahamson, Episcopal Church, Grinnell
Rev. Marsha Acord, United Methodist, Mount Vernon
Rev. Alejandro Alfaro-Santiz, United Methodist, Des Moines
Rev. Laura Arnold, United the Church of Christ, Decorah
Dr. Beverlee Bell, United Methodist, Urbandale
Rev. Alice Bolen, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Runnells
Rev. Rev. Kenneth E. Briggs Jr., United Church of Christ, Clive
Rev. Jennifer Brooks, Unitarian Universalism, Des Moines
Rev. Candice K. Brown, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Des Moines
The Rev Elaine Caldbeck, Episcopal, Bettendorf
Rev. Brian Carter, United Methodist Church, Windsor Heights
Rev. John Chaplin, United Church of Christ, Des Moines
Rev. Dick Clark, United Methodist, Urbandale
Rev. Elizabeth Colton, United Church of Christ, Oskaloosa
The Rev. Elizabeth Coulter, Episcopal, Coralville
The Rev. Judith Crossett, Episcopal, Iowa City
Rev. Dr. Dennis Dickman, Lutheran, Waverly
The Rev. Maureen Doherty, Episcopal, Cedar Falls
Rev. Emily E. Ewing, ELCA, Urbandale, Iowa
The Rev. Eileen Gebbie, United Church of Christ, Ames
Rev. Erin Gingrich, Unitarian Universalism, Des Moines
Rev. Debbie Griffin, Christian Church Disciples of Christ, Des Moines
Rev. John B. Harper, Episcopal, Coralville
Rev. Deb Hill-Davis, Unity Church, Ames
Rev Carlos Jayne, United Methodist, West Des Moines
Rev. Jonna Jensen, United Church of Christ, Baldwin
Rev. Patricia Johnson, Episcopal, Sioux City
Rev. Paul A. Johnson, United Church of Christ, Des Moines
Rabbi Henry Jay Karp, Reform Judaism, Davenport
Rabbi David Kaufman, Reform Judaism, Des Moines
The Rev. Daniel G. Kuckuck, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Urbandale
Rev. Carmen Lampe Zeitler, American Baptist, Des Moines
The Rev. Dr. Randall R. Lyle, Episcopal, Cedar Rapids
Rev. Matt Mardis-LeCroy, United Church of Christ, Des Moines
Rev. Sophie Mathonnet-VanderWell, Reformed Church in America, Pella
The Reverend Jean McCarthy, Episcopal, Des Moines
Rev. Russell Melby, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Ames
Rev. Jill Cameron Michel, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), North Liberty
The Rev. Rachel Thorson Mithelman, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Des Moines
Rev. Vernon Naffier, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Des Moines
Rev. Liane Nichols, Episcopal, Cedar Falls
Rev. Patricia Adams Oberbillig, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Des Moines
Pastor Beth A. Olson, Lutheran, Waverly
The Rev. Eric Pasanchin, Presbyterian Church (USA), Ankeny
The Rev. Ruth Ratliff, Episcopal, Cedar Falls
The Rev. Julia Rendon, Crossroads United Church of Christ, Indianola
The Rev. Martha Rogers, Episcopal, Marion
Rev. Dr. David Ruhe, United Church of Christ, Des Moines
Rev. Hannah Ryan, United Church of Christ, Burlington
Rev. William James Sanford Ryan, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Burlington
Rev. Michele Scott, United Church of Christ, Cedar Rapids
Rev. David Sickelka, United Church of Christ, Urbandale
Rev. Diana J. Sickles, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Des Moines
Rev. Larry W. Sonner, United Methodist, Urbandale
Rev. Jane Stewart, Episcopal, Coralville
Rev. Suzanne Hall Stout, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Des Moines
The Rev. Gayle V. Strickler, Jr., United Church of Christ, Grinnell
Rev. Joseph Stutler, ULC Humanist, Marion
Rev. Carol Sundberg, United Methodist, Cedar Rapids
Rev. Cheryl R. Thomas, American Baptist, Des Moines
Rev. P. Alex Thornburg, Presbyterian Church (USA), Clive
The Rev. Canon Marlin Whitmer, Episcopal, DeWitt
Rev. Nathan Willard, United Church of Christ, Ankeny