Former President Jimmy Carter, who in 2000 officially severed ties with the Southern Baptist Convention after the SBC declared its opposition to female pastors and reiterated its calls “for wives to be submissive to their husbands,” condemned the mistreatment of women by religious leaders, writing that “the words of God do not justify cruelty to women.” In an opinion piece published last weekend, entitled “Losing my Religion for Equality,” Carter said that a “twisted interpretation of the word of God” taught by male religious leaders has been used to justify the oppression of women:
The truth is that male religious leaders have had — and still have — an option to interpret holy teachings either to exalt or subjugate women. They have, for their own selfish ends, overwhelmingly chosen the latter. Their continuing choice provides the foundation or justification for much of the pervasive persecution and abuse of women throughout the world. This is in clear violation not just of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights but also the teachings of Jesus Christ, the Apostle Paul, Moses and the prophets, Muhammad, and founders of other great religions — all of whom have called for proper and equitable treatment of all the children of God. It is time we had the courage to challenge these views.
Although Carter severed ties with the SBC in a 2000 letter mailed to 75,000 Baptists, the former president “continued to serve as a deacon and Sunday school teacher at his local church” in Plains, GA, an SBC affiliate that in 2006 ordained former first lady Rosalynn Carter as a deacon. President Carter, a member of a group of retired statesmen formed by Nelson Mandela called “The Elders,” said last month that the group had concluded that religion has been “a basic cause of the foundational excuse” for “other dominant males to persecute or abuse or deprive women of their justifiable rights.”