Jimmy Carter leaves Southern Baptist Church, cites sexism

Former President Jimmy Carter has announced that he is leaving the Southern Baptist Church after sixty years because of its treatment of girls and women.

[It was an] unavoidable decision when the convention’s leaders, quoting a few carefully selected Bible verses and claiming that Eve was created second to Adam and was responsible for original sin, ordained that women must be “subservient” to their husbands and prohibited from serving as deacons, pastors or chaplains in the military service.
This view that women are somehow inferior to men is not restricted to one religion or belief. Women are prevented from playing a full and equal role in many faiths. Nor, tragically, does its influence stop at the walls of the church, mosque, synagogue or temple. This discrimination, unjustifiably attributed to a Higher Authority, has provided a reason or excuse for the deprivation of women’s equal rights across the world for centuries.
At its most repugnant, the belief that women must be subjugated to the wishes of men excuses slavery, violence, forced prostitution, genital mutilation and national laws that omit rape as a crime. But it also costs many millions of girls and women control over their own bodies and lives, and continues to deny them fair access to education, health, employment and influence within their own communities.

Read Carter’s full statement here. (By the way, I’m just shocked that I haven’t seen any media coverage of this.)
Via BlogHer.
UPDATE: Apparently Carter leaving the church is old news, but he issued a position paper this week on the subject, severing all ties. Thanks!

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57 Comments

  1. Bertha P
    Posted July 21, 2009 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    Lest we forget, the Word says that women are to keep silence in the assembly, that we are not to usurp autority over the man. Also the the male who gets the call to pastor, must be the husband of one wife. A woman can not meet this criteria unless she is married to another woman and you know what the Word says about that. Women have a special call, to be loved as Christ loved the church, to teach her children and bring them up in the way they should go. I feel blessed to be among this group, not unequal but special. The word is the same yesterday and today.

  2. Kurt Schwind
    Posted July 21, 2009 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

    The reason that this isn’t big news (at least amongst those who follow this type of thing) is because he left the SBC in 2000. http://www.baptiststandard.com/2000/10_23/pages/carter.html I applaud his motives in both cases, but he was already with the CBF when this latest bit came out.

  3. Rachel_in_WY
    Posted July 21, 2009 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

    Ooh, that’s an interesting twist.

  4. jeana
    Posted July 22, 2009 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

    Babies being born with sin tacked onto them is kind of sinister in my book. And absurd. Better baptize them quick or they’ll spend an eternity in Purgatory!

  5. southern students for choice
    Posted July 25, 2009 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    “This document says nothing about LGBT issues, and that is a tragic shortcoming. But it does say something about women, and in that it only came part way, that part is very strong indeed. It isn’t enough, but it is something.”
    More like “It is something, but it isn’t enough.” It obviously is something, but what is it? How are we supposed to read this — either Carter’s article or the analysis? If people want to praise him for criticizing churches and religion in general for not being the advocate it could and should be for concerns related to women, including overt physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, fine, he has done that before, and this position paper is another good example of it. But no, he didn’t mention LGBT issues, and neither did he mention reproductive health/rights/privacy issues. And what’s more, neither have any feminist/pro-choice/progressive/at all left-of-center commentaries or blogs mentioned his omission of reproductive-related issues.
    Former President Jimmy Carter is 85 years old and has enormous, well-respected experience in international diplomacy, but on relatively liberal/progressive social issues his record is dismal. Pushing 90 is no excuse for not even mentioning these issues, we’d rather have read some sort of “common ground” position than nothing at all, as flawed as we think that trendy attempt at compromise is.
    Former President Jimmy Carter never has felt comfortable talking about his opinions even on official policy related to abortion or even contraception, not even when he was in office from 1977 to 1981 with support as strong as it was for abortion rights and government funding for programs like Title X. Histories of the religious right (and secular right) movements cite his administration’s years as a turning point for right-wing and anti-choice activists, when they first found serious vulnerabilities in pro-choice and in particular Democratic support for reproductive choice policies.
    Before the Carter administration, the only significant anti-choice victory was the Hyde Amendment in 1976, which reflected not only some organized support for anti-choice policies but also ambivalent support from the medical community which was afraid a federal government mandate for abortion would mandate doctors to perform them and risk malpractice suits for alleged injuries, infection, or infertility — and doctors at that time were undergoing a serious crisis in malpractice suits for many reasons, in particular in OB/GYN related cases. That was a factor in passing the Hyde amendment which hasn’t been in place since then, the medical community after that began to take a stronger stand in arguing for reproductive rights issues, as it had before Roe.
    Aside from the Hyde amendment, anti-choice groups existed in the 1970s but had minimal influence — until the ascendancy of the religious right during the Carter administration. Professional medical organizations and feminist clinics worked together remarkably well, despite concerns from feminists of exploitation historically by medical providers (demonstrably the case after the 1910 Flexner Report, documented aptly by Gena Corea, Barbara Ehrenreich, Linda Gordon, and numerous others.). Feminists were never in the forefront of advocating lawsuits against reproductive health providers – anti-choice groups were – and it wasn’t lack of cooperation between feminist health activists and the professional medical community that led to vulnerabilities that the anti-choice movement exploited, it was more ambivilance and opposition within the political parties, and one hears so little about that from pro-choice and progressive democratic perspectives.
    So why don’t we read more — at least in histories of the era — of Carter’s and his administration’s policies on reproductive health issues? It is beyond frustrating to see feminist critiques of his position on “women’s rights” that do not even mention his avowed discomfort with reproductive rights-related issues. It leaves pro-choice activist groups open to accusations that they are primarily a GOTV (get out the vote) campaign for liberal democrats and occasionally a republican here and there, and secondarily an advocacy group for reproductive health care professionals. Oh, and advocacy for the pharmaceutical industry too, at least the part that makes birth control drugs and devices. But we never read about that — well, maybe from the opposition, but not from most other pro-choice and feminist activists.
    Instead — as in today, literally — we read about how republicans and anti-choice activists are threatening to ban abortion again by, for example, national health reform that will not include “women’s reproductive health care”, and the latest appeals in our inbox ask for money and signatures to an online petition saying “women’s reproductive health care MUST be part of health care reform”. We read that in an email we got today from a national pro-choice group whose petition mentiones anti-choice opposition but does not mention abortion or even contraception.
    To quote verbatim:

    Anti-choice groups are trying to hijack health care reform, jeopardizing women’s health for their own political agenda. And this time, the misinformation they spread could result in taking away existing benefits from women and denying them access to the trusted providers of their choice.

    The bottom line: women’s reproductive health care must be a priority, and that means women must not be worse off under health care reform. Reproductive health care must be covered and women must be able to access that care through providers they trust.

    End quote.
    It’s wonderful that they want to defend reproductive health care for women, but what aspects in particular do we want our legislators to be concerned about — breast and ovarian cancer, for example, or abortion and contraception? And for which women — middle-class and better-off women who have traditionally had health insurance? How about poor women who have not been able to afford it or whose employer doesn’t offer it, or young women who have not had to get it on their own independent from their parents yet? No wonder appeals read like they could apply just as well to stunt doubles for the cast of “Sex and the City” than women who have traditionally found reproductive health care services difficult or impossible to access, and who are especially the targets of anti-choice law and policy — as they are really the targets of anti-choice law and policy, and not so much women in general.
    If one wants to read enough into vague references that are even in Carter’s position paper, no doubt one could say that even he would (or that he MUST) support “women’s reproductive health care” as a part of “health care reform.”
    If activists choose their words vaguely enough, the constituent will see what they want to see, and donate or vote for whatever it is they think they are donating for.

  6. Bertha P
    Posted July 27, 2009 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    The scriptures discussing womens place in the assembly is just that. Women are to be silent in the assembly, (not in society). The woman is not to usurp authority over the man,..in the assembly. The scriptures also teach husband to love his wife as Christ loves the church. Now I do not believe that women in society would have any fault with that.

  7. Bertha P
    Posted July 27, 2009 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    I believe the Baptist’s stand on women’s rights are talking about women in the church. Scripture does teach that women are to keep silent in the assembly (not society). Scripture does teach that women are not to usurp authority over the man in the assembly (not society). I am a Baptist woman and have no difficulty with that at all. God has put women in a special place in the church. She is to be loved by her husband as Christ loved the church and gave himself for it. Women are the ones who have abused her role.

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