Our guest blogger is Sally Steenland, Director of the Faith and Progressive Policy Initiative at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.U.S. Senate candidate Richard Mourdock (R-IN) outraged millions of American women and men when he said in a debate last night that rape pregnancies are “a gift from God” and that women who become pregnant from rape should be denied abortion care.
Mourdock’s views are harsh and extremist — and they represent an attempt to impose his unforgiving theological views on millions of Americans who hold very different beliefs. Religious leaders, including clergy and faith experts at CAP’s Faith and Reproductive Justice Institute, are weighing in to condemn his views:
“Rape is an act of overt personal violence and an egregious abuse of power that the God I believe in does not sanction. A woman who is faced with a pregnancy from such a traumatic attack on her body and soul must have all options available to her when deciding whether or not to terminate a pregnancy, including the right granted to her by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1973 to a safe and legal abortion.” — Rev. Elizabeth Barnum, United Church of Christ minister serving in Rhode Island
“As a Christian pastor, I am deeply offended by Indiana Senate Candidate Richard Mourdock’s claim that the God of compassion and justice would re-victimize a survivor of sexual violence. To believe that God would choose to impose a pregnancy on someone whose most basic bodily agency has been violated is to completely misunderstand God’s agency for those most in need. Scripture commands us: Do not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain, and the idea that God would “gift” a survivor of rape with a pregnancy is exactly that. It’s blasphemy.” — Rev. Matthew Westfox, Associate Pastor of All Souls Bethlehem Church in Brooklyn, NY, and Director of Interfaith Outreach for the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice
“As a pastor who has counseled hundreds of women regarding unintended pregnancies, including women who have suffered awful violence in their lives, I was both saddened and horrified hearing the callousness of Richard Mourdock’s words. How could his heart be so hard? God compels us towards acts of profound justice, compassion, and peace. God calls us to be in caring relationships with those who have suffered the most in this world. We are to bear witness and listen, mindful to not let our arrogance and hubris lead us astray.” — Rev. Darcy Baxter, Director of Family Ministries, Starr King Unitarian Universalist Church, Hayward, CA
“Richard Mourdock has already tried to walk back his indefensible comment, saying that he simply meant that God is the only one who can create life. We know though that this theological view — that God controls and wills everything that happens — would in fact view rape as one of those things that must have been intended by God…. A woman in Indiana now knows that this is not an elected official who would represent her if she believed that her rape was in fact against God’s will and plan for her life, if she wanted to stop the rapist’s sperm acting in her body against her will. Richard Mourdock doesn’t want to grant that woman the power over her own body.” — Caryn Riswold, Lutheran feminist theologian
“It is absolutely appalling that someone could make such comments about the vicious and violent act of rape and an unwanted pregnancy that could result as a “gift from God.” It is this type of ideology and theology that further victimizes women who have had to endure such a horrendous act. This statement has nothing to do with God but everything to do with acquiring a dangerous controlling grip on the lives and decisions of women.” — Rev. Victoria Ferguson, chaplain at the Women’s Resources Center to End Domestic Violence, Atlanta, GA
“By invoking the divine, Mourdock has made his argument a statement of his religious faith. While my faith understands God in a radically different way, he is entitled to his beliefs. What is tragic about his statement is that he intends to deny the hundreds of thousands of women who are raped and fear pregnancy, and the tens of thousands of women who actually become pregnant from rape, their rights to religious freedom. Each of the women who face this horrible experience should be free to seek in their faith the solace and comfort of a loving and compassionate God who has gifted them with the moral agency to make their own decision about whether or not to terminate a pregnancy begun in violence.” — Rev. Madison T. Shockley II, Pastor, Pilgrim United Church of Christ, Carlsbad, CA, and board member of Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice
In addition to such individual critiques, major religious denominations support the moral authority of women to get an abortion in cases of rape. They include: the United Methodist Church, the Episcopal Church, the Southern Baptist Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, Seventh Day Adventists, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Center Conference of American Rabbis, and Union for Reform Judaism.
An earlier version of this post did not include the full name of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, inadvertently shortening it to “the Church of Latter Day Saints.” ThinkProgress regrets the error.