Faith, Religion, Culture, and Population
April 02, 2013
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Desmond Tutu, Former Anglican Archbishop of CapeTown
...Ayatollah Ali Khomenei
August 09 , 2012, This is Kent
The Christian church's record on teaching sexual morality is patchy.
While Jesus taught the indissolubility and exclusivity of marriage, quite early in Christian history some Church leaders began to show a distaste for sexual intercourse which has had damaging results. They taught that celibacy was a higher way of life than marriage, and that sexual intercourse should be undertaken solely and exclusively for the procreation of children. They excluded the possibility that sexual union might be undertaken simply as an expression of affection and intimacy.
While few people today would argue that celibacy is superior to marriage, but there is still some disagreement over the place of sexual intercourse.
Nearly all Christian denominations teach that sexual union within marriage has a wider function that the production of children, but the official teaching of the Roman Catholic church adds that nothing artificial must be done to prevent conception.
Anything beyond planning a family by "natural" means - such as avoiding intercourse at times when the woman is most fertile - is sinful.
Very few Roman Catholics in western countries feel bound by their church's teaching in this respect; and they use artificial contraceptives, but in the developing world the teaching has what many would see as a damaging effect.
An initiative recently begun by the British government and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to provide family planning facilities for many millions of women who were previously denied them was intended to prevent unwanted pregnancies which often endanger the mother's health or produce another mouth which it will prove hard to feed.
But official Roman Catholic church strenuously resists initiatives of this kind, both on grounds of doctrine and by arguing that the money involved could be better spent in other ways.
Many Christians take another view, saying that it has been conceded that sexual intercourse has a wider purpose than procreation it is hard to see why artificial contraception within marriage should be forbidden.
Jesus All About ToleranceSeptember 2010, Sacremento Bee LTE by Margaret Loehr
Once again, fear and hatred mask themselves as religion and loudly encourages intolerance in the name of Jesus.
Jesus never mentioned homosexuality or abortion.
Nor did he ever suggest that there was a "right" religion or that the purpose of religion was to judge others and get them to do what we want them to do.
Rather, he taught tolerance for the divinity in all.
He railed against hypocrisy. He realized that the reason we condemn others is to distract ourselves from clearly seeing our own improprieties.
If we sincerely want to heal the woes of humanity, we cannot do it through hatred and intolerance. Our hope lies in our ability to move into acceptance of our own humanity and the humanity of others. Buddha, Lao Tzu, Confucius, Socrates, Gandhi, Jesus and many others all emphasized this simple message.
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January 2006, Bruce Sandquist
The topics of contraception and sexual education are largely avoided in many Muslim countries. And many countries in the Middle East have laws against the purchase of oral contraceptive pills.
However, the Holy Quran does permit contraception as long as both partners consent, it's not permanent, and it doesn't cause bodily harm. Education is needed in order to change the perception of policy makers, and this education needs to be respectful of their traditional values while reassuring them of the benefits of making contraception available to young people.
Middle Eastern traditions and Shariah (Islamic) law dictate that pre-marital sex (even between consenting adults above the age of 18) is punishable by law. This often brands all contraceptive methods as instruments for having sex out of marriage. The uses, risks, and contraindications are not discussed and are unknown to adult women. The general view is that these topics promote sexual behavior among unmarried men and women.
Doctors are an exception and can provide contraceptive advice to married couples. Unmarried men and women have no access to contraceptive knowledge and are at risk of unwanted pregnancies and STDs. Unmarried pregnant women may even attempt suicide when they feel they have no options.
Also, emergency contraception is not widely available, which has led to an alarming rise in cases of fake and often dangerous pills that are purchased online.
Progress in introducing the topics of contraception and sex education may be slow, but every step forward is significant.The significance of providing contraception and improving overall healthcare must be linked. Experts will impart knowledge and train peer educators, to construct policies and to negotiate with government agencies.
Basic awareness-raising can begin through the Friday Islamic congregational prayer and the sermons, while keeping the Islamic law according to the Quran and Hadith in the forefront.
Peer educators also need to be selected on the basis of sex, nationality, language, and communication skills so they can be specifically tailored for specific groups, particularly with the men and women separately.
Feedback from participants is also important to help educators improve their teaching, answer the relevant questions, and dispel the common myths and misconceptions about contraception. Social media and the internet can also serve this purpose.
In Pakistan it is not uncommon for a man to have more than one wife and as many as 20 children, even though 70% of the country is largely illiterate and resides in rural areas lacking the most basic services, says the UN and even though 60% of Pakistanis living on just $2 per day, says the World Bank.
Akbar Laghari of Pakistan's Department of Population Welfare says large families are fueling a population explosion that is fast becoming the country's most dangerous crisis, having grown from around 33 million in 1947 to more than 180 million people in 2012, making it the sixth most populous country in the world.
Only 20% of Pakistani women use modern birth control and the UN estimates the country will become the world's third most populous country after China and India by 2050.
"I consider the population problem the biggest problem of this country," Laghari said. "The future is bleak because of this." He said the government has not done enough to offer effective family planning services and teach people about birth control. The government is not giving it top priority because of the political upheavals in the country and frequent changes in government.
With widespread poverty, an energy crisis, woeful public services, and a bloody, resource-draining insurgency, Pakistan can ill afford to see this rapid growth continue, Laghari warned.
Zeba Sathar, Pakistan country director for the Population Council, a non-profit organization that specializes in public health research in developing countries says many people are unable to make informed decisions because support services such as family planning are lacking. "The poor end up with many children because they don't have access to right kind of information." she said.
"We're doing a lot of research where women say 'we didn't want that many children,' or they wanted to have them later but they just didn't find the services. ... The philosophy is we're not into controlling the number of children. If you can bring up a healthy family with 20 children, kudos to you. It's a question of running out of resources. It's when the 15th one suffers."
In the case of the family with 20 children, the family can only afford to send four of their offspring to school, the rest have to work to support the family.
While Pakistan is a deeply conservative country where many view birth control as un-Islamic and some say "The process of reproduction will go on until God stops it. Why should a Muslim worry about the increase in population when God has taken responsibility for everyone's care?" - and women are deprived of the right to make important decisions such as whether to have a child - one the other hand, other Muslim countries with similar problems to Pakistan, including Bangladesh and Iran, have introduced measures to curb their growing populations. Those countries started with the political will to do something and spent a lot of time and resources on family planning efforts.
According to WHO Government field workers and satellite clinics were the two crucial elements in the campaign in Bangladesh - which saw its population grow from 75 million when it gained independence in 1971, to more than 142 million currently. There Family Welfare Assistants provide door-to-door visits giving millions of couples family planning support and sexual health education.
Until recently the subject of family planning in Niger was taboo, but commissioner Kristalina Georgieva, the European Union's top humanitarian-aid official, was pleasantly surprised this time to see a project teaching women about contraception and the importance of spacing births.
The local Imam where she visited "was quoting the Koran saying there's a verse that says there has to be time between the birth of children so the children and mother can recover and be strong."
The support of the local religious leaders at the health centre she visited in Bambey, in western Niger, was crucial for bringing down the high rate of population growth, she said. The growth was putting a strain on a country that is among the poorest in the world, that struggles with a harsh climate and is vulnerable to the effects of climate change.
Since independence in 1960, Niger's population has risen from less than 2 million to 15 million plus.
Now there is "remarkable openness to address family planning". "At the level of the president, prime minister, ministers and cabinet there's an openness to discussing family planning. There's an openness that 3.3-percent population growth is not sustainable," she added.
"There are already activities on the ground (for) family planning in a very community-based and respectful manner … The topic is not taboo anymore."
Mothers need to space their children to avoid back-to-back pregnancies which contribute to malnutrition and keep mothers weak. "That's where there is potential to work hand in hand with community leaders and religious leaders. It has to be culturally acceptable to work."
The annual hungry season in Africa's Sahel countries is expected to begin in late February or early March - several months earlier than usual. Aid agencies say between five and nine million people are at risk.
Talking about population growth in relation to food shortages is a sensitive issue, partly because large families are considered important in many cultures, particularly where people rely on their children to help on the land and to support them in old age.
Many argue that the real causes of food shortages are political and economic. Georgieva says a food crisis is looming in the Sahel due to poor rains, bad harvests, food-price hikes and the return of migrants from Libya, among other factors.
But she also argues more generally that it is time for the world to pay more attention to managing population growth in fragile environments. When she visited Kenya last year she realised that in 1963 it had more or less the same population as her own country Bulgaria - well below 10 million. Today Bulgaria is at 7.5 million whereas Kenya's has soared to 40 million.
The populations of other affected countries had also grown five times and this meant that when there were droughts the impact was all the more severe.
For a very readable look at some of the arguments on why population growth is not the cause of famine, take a look at this article published by Al Jazeera: Famine in the Horn of Africa: Malthus beware. http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2011/08/20118178844125460.html
by Asghar Ali Engineer of Mumbai, Islamic scholar
Many people ask if family planning is permissible in Islam, saying the imams and ulama say Qur'an prohibits family planning and quoting a verse which says, "And kill not your children for fear of poverty - We provide for them and for you. Surely the killing of them is a great wrong." (17:31). .... This does not refer to family planning because you can only kill one who exists.
Some people suggest that it refers to the practice of burying the girl child alive when they cannot provide for them, but as Imam Razi suggests, it refers to both male and female children being kept ignorant. Not killing the body but killing the mind which is as bad as killing the body. The word used here is 'awlad' i.e. children which include both male as well as female and not only female.
In fact a large family means children cannot be properly educated by poor parents and hence parents kill them mentally by keeping them ignorant. They cannot even clothe them properly. In such circumstances one cannot have good quality Muslims and better quality is more desirable than mere quantity.
In early days the problem of family planning did not exist. It is a modern problem. Most of the nation states in third world do not have economic means to support a large population, including feeding them, educating them and also providing proper health services. These are basic duties of modern nation states.
The paucity of resources require the adoption of family planning. When Qur'an was being revealed there was neither any properly organized state nor education or health services being provided by any state agency. It is important to note that Qur'an which shows eight ways to spend zakat, does not include education or health which is so essential for the state to provide today. Thus what Imam Razi suggests is not only very correct and also enhances importance of family planning in the modern times as small family can support better education and health services.
Verse 4:3 is usually interpreted: do not marry more than one so that you may not do injustice. But Imam Shafi'I renders it as 'so that you do not have large family'.
In understanding the Qur'an, even very eminent imams and great scholars differed from each other. One should not impose one single meaning of a verse on all Muslims. It could be interpreted differently by different people in their own context and circumstances. Family planning being a modern need one should not reject it out of hand and quote Qur'anic verses out of context.
The Qur'an also suggests that a child be suckled at least for two years and it is well known that as long as mother suckles she would not conceive. Thus indirectly the Qur'an also suggests spacing of a child.
Even in hadith literature we find that the Prophet (PBUH) permitted prevention of conceiving in certain circumstances. When a person asked Prophet for permission for 'azl (coitus interrupts) as he was going for a long journey along with his wife and he did not want his wife to conceive while travelling the Messenger of Allah allowed him. In those days 'azl was the only known method for planning of birth of a child. Today there are several methods available like use of condoms.
Imam Ghazzali, a very eminent theologian and philosopher allows termination of pregnancy if mother's life is in danger and shows several methods for termination. He even allows termination of pregnancy on health grounds or if mother's beauty is in danger provided it is in consultation with her husband.. Some scholars say that verse 23:14 concludes that one can terminate pregnancy up to three months as this verse describes stages of development of sperm planted in mother's womb and it takes three months for life to begin.
Nearly 4 million babies are born in Pakistan every year, and most are born into poverty. The World Bank says 60% of Pakistanis live on less than $2 a day, according to a new government survey,
Yet clerics in religiously conservative Pakistan tell the Muslim majority that the Quran instructs women to keep bearing as many babies as possible and say that modern family planning is a Western convention that offends Islam.
But a woman can temporarily put off becoming pregnant. The mufti says the Quran encourages mothers to space their pregnancies and to breast-feed their babies for prolonged periods. During that time the man may also use condoms and the rhythm method.
The mufti Zakaria says being poor should in no way limit having babies. Referencing the Quran, he says, "God will provide the resources and no one will starve." The Quran also instructs that children must not be deprived of a proper upbringing. However, in Pakistan 38% of all children under 5 are underweight, and according to government data, malnutrition is widespread among mothers.
The mufti answers: "Every society has its own value system. You should not judge us by yours. Children in the West lead a luxurious life. Earth is their heaven. Our children should not be compared with them," the mufti says. "Muslims don't pay much heed to the mundane pleasures of this world. Our reward will come in the next life."
The mufti adds that the West has taken modern contraception too far by removing the fear of getting pregnant and therefore removing women's sexual inhibitions. In Pakistan, "if a woman's fear is removed," says the mufti, she will stray into bad behavior "and offend God."
70% of married women use no birth control method at all. While the government is ineffectual in promoting family planning, Dr. Yasmin Raashid, a leader in obstetrics and gynecology in Pakistan says if properly followed, the Quran's teachings about spacing pregnancies would automatically mean smaller families. She says more than anything else illiteracy undermines family planning in Pakistan.
"Educated mothers limit their families," she says. "The tragedy in our country has been that the majority of women in Pakistan are not educated." She says educating young girls is the single best policy for reducing the country's high fertility rate and for achieving smaller, healthier families.
In Sri Lanka the literacy rate is 91%. and the fertility rate is 2.3, compared with Pakistan, where it is 3.9. In Pakistan, infant mortality is nearly six times as high as in Sri Lanka - a smaller, poorer country.
"And the only thing that you see different there is that women are educated there," Raashid says. "They know about their rights. They know what has to be done where their children are concerned. They know what to do where their own health is concerned.
In Pakistan, less than 1% of GDP is spent on health care. 12,000 mothers die in childbirth in Pakistan each year. Pakistan must invest in more midwives. Only 25% of women being delivered by skilled birth attendants.
Islamic law prevalent in Pakistan says the soul is deemed to come into the fetus at four months, and so up to four months, abortion may be induced for "good cause." But abortion has become a dangerous form of birth control as women submit themselves to unskilled practitioners. It's the fifth-leading cause of maternal death in Pakistan because of the infections related to incomplete abortions and septic abortions.
On woman the interviewer met said she was already ill and overburdened with seven children. But she's pregnant again. She wants to stop having babies, and told her husband so. But her husband wanted a second daughter.
In just one decade Iran dropped its near-record population growth rate to one of the lowest in the developing world.
In 1979 Ayatollah Khomeini assumed leadership in Iran and launched the Islamic revolution. He dismantled the well-established family planning programs and instead advocated large families wanting to increase the ranks of soldiers for Islam in the war against Iraq.
Fertility levels climbed, pushing Iran's annual population growth to 4.2% in the early 1980s, probably the biological maximum. This enormous growth began to burden the economy and the environment, the country's leaders realized that overcrowding, environmental degradation, and unemployment were undermining Iran's future.
In 1989 the government restored its family planning program. In May 1993, a national family planning law was passed, encouraging smaller families. Iran Broadcasting raised awareness of population issues and of the availability of family planning services. 70% of rural households had TV sets. Religious leaders crusaded for smaller families. 15,000 health clinics were established to provide rural populations with health and family planning services.
Iran introduced a variety of contraceptive measures, including vasectomy and sterilization, all free of charge. Couples were required to take a course on modern contraception before receiving a marriage license. In addition Iran launched an effort to raise female literacy, raising it from 25% in 1970 to over 70% in 2000. Female school enrollment increased from 60% to 90%. Women and girls with more schooling are likely to have fewer children.
Family size in Iran dropped from seven children to fewer than three. From 1987 to 1994, Iran cut its population growth rate by half.
The bad news is that in July 2010 Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared the country's family planning program ungodly and announced a new pronatalist policy. The government would pay couples to have children, depositing money in each child's bank account until age 18.
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Virtually every discussion of the Roman Catholic Church's position on contraception stresses that the position has remained unchanged throughout history.
One story that was revealed in the recent transition of popes to Pope Francis: in 1276 Pedro Julião, the Cardinal-Bishop of Frascati, was elected pope following the death of Pope Adrian V, and became John XXI. He was a well-respected physician and he served as Pope Gregory X's personal doctor. No other pope has had such medical expertise. While serving Gregory X, he wrote popular handbook entitled Thesaurus Pauperum ("Treasure of the Poor") which listed herbal remedies for people who could not afford formal medical attention. The Catholic Encyclopedia notes that the book "gives a remedy for the diseases of every part of the body" and mentions that the "book was widely used."
In his book, Pedro Julião offered numerous recipes for both pre- and post-coital contraception. For women he offered numerous recipes to induce menstruation, a long-term euphemism for abortion. For men, among other things, he suggested applying a plaster of hemlock to the testicles before coitus.
Despite the work of John XXI, this is written in Catholic Answers: "The Church has always maintained the historic Christian teaching that deliberate acts of contraception are always gravely sinful, which means that it is mortally sinful if done with full knowledge and deliberate consent (CCC 1857). This teaching cannot be changed and has been taught by the Church infallibly."
A recent Gallup poll in the U.S found that 82% of Catholics felt that birth control was morally acceptable.
There is plenty of research that shows that living conditions improve dramatically when women are able to take control of their reproductive decisions. With the world's population already exceeding 7 billion and expected to reach 9 billion by 2050, we are experiencing catastrophic levels of environmental pollution and frightening levels of starvation; estimates indicate that currently 15 million children die from starvation each year. We also know that condom use will significantly slow the spread of AIDS.
The fall of Keith O'Brien is more than just the humiliation of a proud and lonely man - a humiliation certain to be prolonged by the apparent dishonesty of his partial confession. It is also a further suggestion that the discipline of celibacy can't much longer be maintained for the vast majority of the Catholic priesthood.
The only major religion that places no value on celibacy at all is Judaism - and there are plenty of sex scandals involving rabbis, too. Marriage on its own solves no more problems than celibacy does.
Celibacy seems to be widely ignored in the places where the church is growing today - in Africa, in Latin America and perhaps in Asia too.
The traditional model of Catholic priesthood in the west - where men lived together in large groups, admired by their parishioners but existentially remote from them, and in any case brought up in a seminary throughout their adolescence - provided an interior world where celibacy seemed normal and attainable. That model collapsed in the latter half of the 20th century. More than 100,000 men left the priesthood to marry before Pope John Paul II made it almost impossible; the average age of priests in the US rose from 34 to 64.
There are no official statistics - obviously - on the extent to which this gap has been filled by gay men, nor on how many of those are celibate. But informed Catholic observers agree that the number is high, and that there is a profoundly unhealthy culture of pretence within the priesthood. When the HIV/Aids epidemic first hit the US in the 1980s, the death rate among the Catholic priesthood was three times the national average.
At Notre Dame in 1966 faculty members formed a group to advocate for government funding of family planning programs, advertised a statement of support in Catholic publications, and received over 500 signatures from Catholic clergy, nuns, lawyers, doctors, and faculty members at Catholic universities, including the deans of Notre Dame and Santa Clara's law schools. The Notre Dame professor chairing the committee said "in a pluralistic society, some legislation may be desirable even though it may not be in accord with the moral principles of a minority of the society's members."
He said the impetus for the group's formation had been an address by Father Hanley, a law professor at Georgetown University, to the American Bar Association arguing for government family planning programs. Father Hanley also testified before a congressional subcommittee in support of access to contraception. Georgetown is the same university that trained a lawyer named Sandra Fluke. So she was following in the footsteps of a revered Georgetown professor and priest who had inspired Catholics across the country to take action.
While most people think that Fluke was demanding government funding for contraception, what she actually testified about was the sub-par plan available to Georgetown students (who are required to have health insurance). Typically, student health plans involve students paying money to a third-party health insurance company; neither government nor university funds are involved in these transactions.
Father Hanley testified that he could firmly maintain his moral positions as a Catholic while supporting a government program that "permits each citizen a fully free moral choice in matters of family planning, and aids him in implementing this choice."
Today Georgetown has taken advantage of the safe harbor from the contraceptive coverage requirements, claiming it has a religious belief that bars providing insurance that covers contraception, even though faculty members' health plans have included contraceptive coverage for years. Or even though Georgetown hosted an excellent conference on the HHS regulation where most scholars rejected the claim that providing coverage violated Catholic doctrine or that requiring it violated the law.
From 1963 to 1967 Notre Dame held an annual "Conference on Population," in partnership with the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, from 1963 to 1967. In 1965, thirty-seven scholars who attended the conference sent a statement to the Pope that declared "here is dependable evidence that contraception is not intrinsically immoral, and that therefore there are certain circumstances in which it may be permitted or indeed even recommended."
Now Notre Dame, in its lawsuit, claims it has a sincere religious belief that the Church's "centuries' old teachings" prohibit coverage. Yet Kathleen Kaveny, a professor of both law and theology at Notre Dame, has argued the legality of the mandate in detail.
Turning to Fordham University, also Catholic-affiliated. It had an off-campus birth control clinic organized by Fordham law students. In 1967 it had a sexual education program which would "include frank discussions of methods of conception and contraception" and was permissible because "the morality of contraceptives does not enter into the discussion." Today Fordham health center policies prohibit medical professionals from condoning contraception. However Fordham students have had contraceptive coverage for years and thanks to the Affordable Care Act, they can now go see a real gynecologist off-campus without paying a co-payment.
Moving on to the Catholic University of America, Father Charles Curran, a theology professor in 1965, argued for a change in the Church's doctrine on contraception, resulting in efforts to dismiss him. After. CUA's theology faculty went on strike; theology faculties across the country joined them, leading the trustees to reconsider.
In 1968, the Pope rejected the recommendations of his papal commission on contraception and released Humanae Vitae to the surprise and dismay of the many Catholics who had expected a reform of the prohibition. Humanae Vitae was met with unprecedented, widespread, vocal dissent. The theology faculties of Fordham, Marquette, Boston College and other schools made public statements opposing it. Father Curran authored a statement criticizing it that 600 theologians signed and continued to publicly dissent from Church teachings on contraception, abortion, and homosexuality until he was dismissed.
We employees and students did not waive the benefit of being protected by generally applicable laws and we weren't asked to. We entered into contracts with our particular institutions, we didn't consent to being governed by whoever is on top in the Catholic hierarchy at any given time.
Professors who joined universities decades ago to students who just matriculated said they received assurances that allowed them to enter these vibrant academic communities that don't resemble the current orthodoxy machines being portrayed at all. The assertions in so many of the cookie-cutter birth control lawsuits show a disdain for individual conscience, basic contract principles of notice and consent, academic freedom, and institutional autonomy from the Church.
Recently the Obama administration, trying to be sensitive to the bishops' claims to conscience, unveiled adjustments to its health-care plan that would allow religious organizations to abstain from offering their employees contraceptive coverage under their group plans while, at the same time, requiring insurers to offer the coverage separately. The woman gets the coverage. and the insurer doesn't have to pay the higher costs associated with unplanned, unwanted pregnancies.
But three American bishops said they'd sooner go to jail than submit to the contraceptive mandate. The archbishop of Philadelphia, Charles Chaput, called the administration's concessions "minimalist" and used the phrase "immoral services" as a euphemism for birth control.
It seems what they want is for American women to be thrust back to a time when legal birth control was scarce, expensive and difficult to procure.
In the meantime, the National Catholic Reporter ran an article entitled "Vatican admits it doesn't fully understand youth culture." The hierarchy held a closed-door conference in Rome from Wednesday through Saturday at which bishops listened to experts on youth in an effort to improve their messaging to the young and recapture some of the generation who are falling away.
In preparation the president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, said he'd been listening to Amy Winehouse. Maybe he will figure it out: young people care about sex. And they care about how religious leaders talk about sex. In America they don't like religions that preach negative messages about sex. They don't like to be told that sex is bad or that premarital sex is a paving stone on the road to hell or that homosexuals are in any way, as the catechism says, "intrinsically disordered." The conservative insistence on birth control as "immoral," is, for young Catholics, a turnoff.
Donna Freitas, a Catholic and a scholar of religion and also of college students' attitudes toward sex, wrote: "Catholic students especially spoke with great sarcasm about the 'don'ts' with regard to sex in the Catholic tradition, which make them feel alienated, and which make them think that Catholicism is utterly out of touch." 98% of Catholic women have used birth control at some point in their lives, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
The organization Catholics for Choice has made a movie called "The Secret History of Sex, Choice and Catholics." Jon O'Brien, who was the one who decided to make the movie, explained that he was talking to a stranger who felt uncomfortable with many of the positions taken by Catholics for Choice, and O'brian told the gentleman that his work in support of reproductive rights was not despite his Catholic faith, but because of it.
The Catholic "social justice tradition wouldn't let me turn my back on people in need; nor would it allow me to ignore the importance of conscience in moral decision-making. Both issues relate directly to reproductive health: women are in the best place to make the decisions that affect their health, and deserve all the support necessary when life's challenges threaten their well-being, their health, or even their very lives. Those who are rich will always have the means to bypass the obstacles in their way, legal or otherwise, whereas the poor and needy are always the ones who suffer."
O'Brian asked the gentleman "Why do you deny the truth about all the affirming messages in Catholic theology about women, choice, and sexuality in general?" and was told: "Those issues are too hot to handle." He would have been denied mainstream acceptance and positions if he'd tackled issues like reproductive rights. Rather than pick that fight, he had chosen, as many others do, to keep his head down Apparently those whose understanding and interpretation of core Catholic teachings is a little different the standard teaching are slighted and attacked for raising legitimate points of view about church teaching.
There is a reason why people like Bishop Kevin Dowling, who tells the truth about Catholics and condoms in the shanty towns of South Africa, do not attain the trappings of power, position, and influence that have been lavished upon so many ultra-conservative American clergymen of late.
"Telling the truth about Catholic theology really matters. It matters for reasons of self-respect, and it matters for so many who think they have to choose between their faith and how they live their lives. For me, working with theologians and so many marvelous thinkers in the church who are not afraid to stand up and speak out has been an amazing experience. It is truly liberating when you see that it is possible to be both true to yourself and authentically Catholic at the same time."
And so, after talking to a filmmaker, the "The Secret History of Sex, Choice and Catholics" was born.
The "secret" is that there is more than one magisterium -- in addition to the hierarchy, there is also the magisterium of the theologians and that of the people. This means that any of us can be called to teach, and for many this can mean doing what the theologians and thinkers in the film have done: bravely speak out. Their paths often lead straight into confrontation with established authority.
The first day we released the movie, thousands of people worldwide -- from the Philippines to South Africa, from the US to Eastern Europe -- watched the film online. There is clearly a genuine hunger for this message.
Non-Catholics have learned from the film what the majority of Catholics actually believe. And the story told by "The Secret History" isn't just for Catholics. It gets to the heart of how we all make moral decisions and seek compassionate answers.
The Philippines' landmark reproductive health bill has been ratified; the final version of the legislation passed by a margin of 11 votes to five, after a decade-long struggle to give Filipina women the freedom to make informed family planning choices. The new legislation now only requires the signature of President Benigno Aquino who has supported the bill.
The bill will make free contraception and family planning advice available through government health centres and reproductive health classes will be incorporated into the national education curriculum. Women who have had abortions or suffered miscarriages will receive proper medical care - a crucial breakthrough in a country where, according to the UN Population Fund, 11 women die daily as a result of complications arising from pregnancy.
Carlos Conde of Human Rights Watch said "This law will be very important in improving the lives of millions of Filipina women and mothers who are presently receiving scant reproductive healthcare services from the government," said "At the end of the day, those who opposed the bill just ran out of arguments, because you can see the stark reality in the Philippines: women need to be given a choice as to how they create and run their families."
The Roman Catholic church, which counts about 80% of the population among its followers and wields considerable political sway, has delayed its adoption for a decade.
Ramon San Pascual, former executive director of the Philippine Legislators' Committee on Population and Development never doubted this bill would be passed. "You see the need for change every day, staring you in the eyes: poor young urban girls carry their malnourished babies while the religious leaders pontificate on the evil of reproductive health education."
Aquino's election as president in 2010 was a crucial stepping stone in the process, said Conde. "It took a lot of political courage from President Aquino to go up against the church. It was fortunate that the bill was passed in the middle of Aquino's term. "If they had waited for the next president I don't think it would have happened, because the Catholic church can create a lot of political damage to candidates. And they're not going to be silent over this, they're going to fight: bring the bill to the Supreme Court, rally the faithful."
"This government is out to really destroy the traditional Filipino values of family and life," said Father Melvin Castro on the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippine (CBCP) website. "This government has revealed its true face. It has never been for the welfare of the family, women and children."
The Supreme Court has the power to overturn the bill, but that outcome is seen as unlikely - not least because several of the court's judges were appointed by Aquino. Surveys conducted in the Philippines suggest the majority of the public are firmly behind the bill's adoption.
After years of discussion in the Philippine Congress, the House of Representatives finally decided in August to end debate on a reproductive health bill that would subsidize contraception and require sex education in the Philippines, a country with one of the highest birthrates in Asia. If it passes, the bill will also need to be approved by the Senate.
President Benigno S. Aquino III says the measure will give poor women a chance to have fewer children and rise out of poverty. Opponents, backed principally by the Roman Catholic Church, say the bill is out of step with the moral tenets of the overwhelmingly Catholic Philippines and argue that a high birthrate lessens poverty.
A doctor at Dr. Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital says "These women will use birth control pills, they will use condoms, but they can't afford them." ,,, "We need to advocate reproductive health in the community at the grass roots. The church is already there spreading their message through services every Sunday." The hospital does offer family planning information, but budget constraints prevent it from giving patients contraceptives.
"Family planning in the Philippines is not about population control," Dr. Ilem said. "It is a health intervention. We are focusing on women who are too young, too old, too poor or too sick to have babies but their situation does not allow them to stop."
Capitol Hill should be a reflection of the needs and values of all Americans -- not just those with the loudest voices or the strongest lobby. Often, religious voices are used to impose or support the most conservative policies, despite the diversity that exists among people of faith.
The Catholic Declaration on Religious Freedom declares "the right of all citizens and religious communities to religious freedom." Though we come from different backgrounds, all of us share the belief that women should have the right to make their own choice about abortion, in particular, and reproductive health choices in general.
These choices are under fire in Congress. Even though Catholics disagree fundamentally with positions that the bishops have taken on these matters, the U.S. bishops have been the greatest obstacle to women exercising these choices.
For Catholics, the preferential option for the poor calls us to protect the least among us. The 'No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act' (S. 906/H.R. 3) would permanently bar any federal money from being spent on abortion, thereby singling out those women who depend upon Medicaid, Medicare, or the Indian Health service, or are in the military or receive healthcare from other federal healthcare programs.
U.S.: Utah May Be One of Fastest-Growing StatesMay 15, 2005
The Census Bureau said that Utah's population is expected to increase 56%, or 1.2 million people, between 2000 and 2030. Nevada and Arizona are expected to double in population, and a gain of 80% is projected in Florida and almost 60% in Texas. In Utah at least 70% of the 2.2 million residents are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the church's emphasis is on big families. Utah's fertility rate is 2.56 - the highest in the nation. The state also has the nation's highest average of people per household, 3.13, and the lowest median age, 27.5. Its 65-and-older population has climbed 27% in the past 10 years, and will rise another 28% in the next decade. Retiring baby boomers are moving to Utah, often drawn by the red-rock beauty of the southern part of the state. Benefits include: outdoor activities, five national parks within short driving distance, theater, concerts, a new hospital, and attractive housing prices. New subdivisions astride Utah's Wasatch mountain range are creeping closer to the hills framing the Salt Lake Valley. Florida, California and Texas will account for 46% of the nation's growth between 2000 and 2030, with each gaining more than 12 million residents. The highest population growth - 88 percent - is projected in the South and West, according to the Census.
Mormon Reasons for Pill AvoidanceNovember 1, 2000, First Things
Utra Conservative Christians
The president of American Life League, Ms. Judie Brown concerning the Educate Bill Gates Web Site at www.billgateseducate.com, a site that is full of misinformation in an attempt to convince Bill Gates not to spend $17 billion on third world family planning and health. American Life League seems to think that family planning cannot be accomplished without abortions and doesn't realize or denies that family planning prevents abortions. Bill Gates says he does not pay for abortions.
Birth-Control Opponents Greenwash Their MessageMay 13, 2010, Grist online magazine
Opponents of birth control are "going green" these days. "Study after study has shown how the chemicals from the pill discharge into our waterways and wreak havoc on the fish," says the campaign site.
What the "Pill Kills" site doesn't make clear is that the American Life League opposes all contraception of any kind. If the group cared about the environment, it would acknowledge that unplanned births lead to more environmental degradation than the Pill.
Leaders of Christian groups have sent a letter urging the National Association of Evangelicals to force its director in Washington to stop speaking out on global warming.
They are not convinced that global warming is human-induced or that human intervention can prevent it. They accuse the director of diverting the evangelical movement from more important issues, like abortion and homosexuality.
This underlines a struggle between conservative Christian leaders, whose priority has long been sexual morality, and challengers who are pushing to expand the evangelical agenda to include issues like climate change and human rights.
The letter says, "that Cizik and others are using the global warming controversy to shift the emphasis away from the great moral issues of our time."
Those issues, are a need to campaign against abortion and same-sex marriage and to promote the teaching of sexual abstinence and morality to our children.
Mr. Cizik has long served as one of the evangelical movement's agenda-setters. He said last year that he experienced a profound “conversion" on the global warming issue after listening to scientists at a retreat. Evangelicals have recently become a significant voice in the chorus on global warming. In interviews, some signers of this latest letter said they were wary of the global warming issue because they associated it with leftists, limits on free enterprise and population control, which they oppose.
India;: Church Steps in to Advocate Safe SexDecember 23, 2006, Statesman
With the state reeling under drug use and HIV, a church in Manipur has taken a decision to step in and advocate safe sex, condom use and harm reduction behaviour, a move expected to make HIV interventions reachable for high risk groups. The Evangelist Baptist Convention Church (EBC), has decided to use the pulpit to talk about safe sex, HIV and drug use. The decision has been left to the pastors of individual churches with 15-16 agreeing to talk about HIV every Sunday.
The organisation has so far not been talking about condoms and needle exchange among drug users. Use of condoms and syringes is not permitted, but we have to check on reality. The EBC has introduced a module on HIV training in Grace Bible College for those aspiring to be pastors. Under EBC initiatives, the last Sunday of every November is celebrated as AIDS Awareness Day. The Church caters to spiritual aspects but cannot neglect drugs and HIV. Almost three families out of four are affected by drug use and HIV. The state has been adversely impacted by drug use, ethnic conflict, insurgency and poverty. About 24% of the IDUs (intravenous drug users) and 11.4% female sex workers in Manipur are HIV positive. However, 50-60% of IDUs tested positive for HIV. A high prevalence of HIV in IDUs has led to its spread to the general population through the sexual route. An IDU may have multiple sexual partners.
More Than Nine Out of 10 Americans, Men and Women Alike, Have Had Premarital SexDecember 19, 2006, Xinhua General News Service
More than 9 of 10 American men and women have had premarital sex. This is normal behavior for the majority of Americans, and has been for decades.
The study, examining how sexual behavior before marriage has changed over time, was based on interviews with more than 38,000 people in 1982, 1988, 1995 and 2002: 99% had sex by age 44, and 95% had done so before marriage.
Even of those who abstained from sex until 20, four-fifths had had premarital sex by 44.
The likelihood of Americans having sex before marriage has remained stable since the 1950s.
The study found women as likely as men to engage in premarital sex. Among women born between 1950 and 1978, at least 91% had premarital sex by age 30, while among those born in the 1940s, 88% had done so by age 44.
This calls into question the government's funding of abstinence-only- until- marriage programs. It would be more effective to provide young people with the information they need to be safe once they become sexually active.
A conservative group which strongly supports abstinence-only education was skeptical of the findings. "The numbers are too pat."
A Response to ALL's Ms. Brown, David Pimentel, Professor of Agricultural Sciences, Cornell University Writes:2000
American Life League: USAID Responsible for AIDS Epidemic, AIDS Orphans; Genocide Hidden in AIDS Relief Package2000, PR Newswire
[Can you believe this?] "For the past few decades, funding for condom distribution abroad has fueled the spread of the HIV/AIDS virus," said the American Life League, attacking Clinton's $54 million HIV/AIDS relief program for Africa-a program titled "Leadership and Investment in Fighting an Epidemic," or LIFE.
"AIDS mortality has skyrocketed over the past decade and a half, concomitant with USAID's massive condom distribution campaign. ... by occasioning promiscuity under the false guise of 'safe sex,' condom distribution has created genocide in the name of AIDS relief. .. By USAID's own admission, over one billion condoms have been provided to men, women and adolescents throughout the developing world over the past few decades."
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Religious Reproductionists (not just Pro-Life, but Anti-Contraception)
In the past year, the religious right has dominated the political discourse, making it appear that the broader electorate has taken a sharp turn to the right on contraception. But polls shown that most people of faith, like their secular counterparts, believe that women should be able to prevent an unplanned pregnancy. And that is true of practicing Catholics and Protestants alike.
It was refreshing recently to see evangelical leaders at the National Press Club issue a statement warning that the association and the confusion of family planning with abortion has caused intense religious opposition by Christians and others with the result that opposition has extended not just to abortion, but to family planning as a whole.
This confused opposition to family planning is an international phenomenon, and has hindered funding and support of desperately needed family planning services both in the United States and around the world.
The statement also issued a special call to "pro-life" Christians, urging them to back off their opposition to the funding of organizations that provide both contraception and abortion services. Citing the crucial role contraception plays in preventing abortions, the statement called upon pro-life advocates to "consider how a deeply moral commitment, focusing on the flourishing of all human beings made in God's image, actually ought to lead to support for family planning."
Unless more people of faith dare to speak out publicly, the religious right will continue to gain ground in their efforts to shut down family planning clinics. The U.S. House of Representatives wants to cut all funding for Title X, the federal program that helps to provide low-income women with access to birth control. So do Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, and spurred on by the religious right, several governors and legislatures have slashed state funding for clinics serving low-income women.
The Shelby County commission has voted 9 to 4 to take their Title X funding away from Planned Parenthood Greater Memphis Region and instead give it to Christ Community Health Services, which promises "high-quality health care to the underserved in the context of distinctively Christian service."
At the clinic sermons may accompany health screenings and birth control pickups. One Christ Community patient testified at the commission that,she was told: ‘If only my relationships with people and God were right, I would have fewer health problems.'"
Emergency Contraception will be offered through a "third party," which will delay the amount of time it will take for a woman to get the medication, making it much more likely she will miss the window of the few days that the preventative drug can work. Even though EC is not an abortifacient, it will not be available on site due to "religious objections."
No abortion referrals will be made. Christ Community Health Services' lead physician made it clear that “staffers will not direct patients to abortion clinics or make formal referrals to providers who terminate pregnancies."
Nigeria: State Outlaws Condom AdvocacyApril 07, 2008, UN Integrated Regional Information Network
It is now illegal to encourage the use of condoms in Nigeria's Anambra State. The state government has also banned the advocacy and distribution of other forms of contraceptives. "Instead of teaching children how to use condoms they should be taught total abstinence," the state commissioner for health, Amobi Ilika said. Many sociologists, family planning and AIDS support groups disagree. More than 3 million people, 3.9% of the adult population, are living with AIDS in Nigeria. The rate is rising by 300,000 people a year, according to a joint UN program.
Condoms are available throughout Nigeria because the federal government, in partnership with family health organisations, has programmes to distribute and sell them.
Many religious groups back condom use, having recognised that abstinence has failed to yield the desired results.
Anambra State has a history of political instability and violence and is now making "a desperate attempt to uphold morals".
Commissioner Ilika also railed against abortion. He said. "All fetuses must be allowed to live no matter the circumstances that led to the pregnancy, even rape."
He added that medical practitioners in the state will face stiff penalties if they are caught carrying out any 'anti-life' activities. "The state government will withdraw the license of any medical personnel who flouts this directive".
U.S.;: The Quiet Campaign Against Birth ControlAugust 21, 2007, The Baltimore Sun
Mitt Romney set out to convince anti-abortion leaders he was their candidate. He wants to overturn Roe v. Wade and supports teaching only abstinence.
But Mr. Romney was acknowledging something more. He implied an opposition to the birth control pill and a willingness to scale back access to contraception. He defines life as beginning at conception. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists defines pregnancy as starting at implantation. Anti-abortion advocates want pregnancy to start at the moment sperm and egg meet. They'd like you to believe that the birth control pill prevents that fertilized egg from implanting in the womb.
Romnwy told the crowd he had some practice redefining contraception and had vetoed a bill that gave young girls abortive drugs without prescription or parental consent.
To the anti-abortion movement, contraception is the ultimate corruptor. And so candidates seeking the support of anti-abortion groups must offer proof they are anti-contraception too.
Brownback, Republican of Kansas, co-sponsored a bill to de-fund the largest contraception provider, Planned Parenthood. John McCain has voted against taxpayer-funded contraception programs and reports that his adviser on sexual-health matters is Sen. Tom Coburn, who leads campaigns claiming condoms are unsafe and opposing emergency contraception.
Another candidate, Rep. Tom Tancredo, says emergency contraception uses a woman's body to dispose of the child instead of a doctor.
The new wave of anti-contraception activism makes it much easier for politicians to appease the anti-contraception base. The candidates for the Right to Life endorsement are doing their best to avoid directly answering mainstream voters simple questions on the subject.
US Agrees Not to Fund Abstinence ProgrammeFebruary 27, 2006, Push Journal
In response to a claim that government funds were used for Christian proselytizing, the government agreed to stop funding The Silver Ring Thing programme which won't be eligible for more funding unless it ensures the money won't be used for religious purposes. The programme, related to a Christian ministry based in Pittsburgh has received more than $1 million in federal funding during the past three years. In The ACLU complained that the ring given to teenagers was inscribed with a Biblical verse exhorting Christians to refrain from sexual sin and group members testified how accepting Jesus improved their lives. The organization said teenagers can chose between religious or secular programmes.
Ban Family Planning, Abortion: Puri SankaracharyaJanuary 23, 2006, Press Trust of India
Sankaracharya of Puri Swami Nischalananda Saraswati advocated a ban on abortion and family planning. He alleged that family planning measures were proving to be the bane of Hindus who would 'become a minority quite soon if these practices continue'. The Sankaracharya said that 'self-control' was the best process and 'not abortion or family planning measures'. He demanded that Ganga Sagar, a place of Hindu pilgrimage, be declared a holy place like Haridwar, and that the Left Front government in West Bengal should respect the sentiments of the Hindus and take steps to ban non-vegetarian food at the holy site.
U.S.-based conservative groups are engaged in abortion and family-planning debates overseas. U.S. advocacy groups are now waging their culture war worldwide as they try to influence other countries' laws and wrangle over how U.S. aid money should be spent. Pro-lifers feel there's an opportunity to stop the U.S. government from promoting abortion and sex education and population control in the Third World. NGOs have been the playground for the leftist activists, and it's only been during the Bush administration that there has been an opportunity to be on a level playing field. Liberal activists acknowledge that U.S. conservatives have gained clout overseas and intimidated some foreign advocacy groups because of their influence on Bush administration policies. The Bush administration has implemented foreign-aid restrictions demanded by the religious right. At issue are conservative allegations that the U.N. agency contributes to coercive abortions in China. Several prominent U.S. groups are helping prepare for a World Congress of Families in Poland in May 2007. The chief organizer said U.S. conservatives view Poland - where the new president staunchly opposes abortion and gay marriage - as a rare holdout throughout the European Union. In Peru, the Population Research Institute contended that two local groups had violated U.S. policy by using American funds to promote legalization of the morning-after pill. Both groups were warned, and one will have to return some funds. Women's rights activists plan to seek to end Colombia's status as one of three Latin American countries prohibiting all abortions. Several U.S. conservative groups have been helping rally opposition to family-planning legislation in the Philippines. American conservatives have supported Bush policies emphasizing abstinence in overseas HIV/AIDS prevention programs. U.S.-based groups focusing on abstinence have received grants for work in Africa, in some cases drawing criticism that political ties overcame their lack of expertise. With Bush as president, they feel empowered and have been particularly active in Latin America.
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Religious Leaders Speak Out on Sexual and Reproductive Health
Richard Cizik, an evangelical, was a key leader of an evangelical Christian movement calling for climate action and "creation care" a few years ago, and he also endorsed gay civil unions. Cizik recently founded the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good, which advocates for social-justice causes including human rights, health-care access, and an end to war, and has put out a 13-page "Call to Christian Common Ground on Family Planning and Maternal and Children's Health." The document focuses on moral rather than environmental arguments, making the case that family planning reduces abortions, improves women's health, and saves women's lives.
Cizik believes he can convince open-minded evangelicals and other Christians of the rightness of his cause.
Worldwide, about 125 million women face social, emotional, and spiritual trauma -- and for some, the life-threatening risk -- of not having access to family planning. As a result, 25% births worldwide is unplanned, leading to 42 million abortions each year (half of them clandestine) and 68,000 women's deaths. Death in childbirth takes one woman's life per minute … and 99% of these deaths occur in poor countries. Many more women survive but have their health permanently ruined by repeated childbearing.
Here in the United States, lack of access to affordable health insurance results in an estimated 40% of poor women of reproductive age without family planning services. Contraception is credited with preventing an estimated 112 million abortions worldwide each year.
"The choice of not having a baby is always best made before pregnancy. About this there is broad common ground." he said. "Please do not block family planning efforts, globally or domestically, because of your opposition to groups that provide both contraception and abortion. Instead, consider how a deeply pro-life moral commitment, focusing on the flourishing of all human beings made in God's image, actually ought to lead to support for family planning without entangling it in the often partisan, politically motivated abortion controversy."
“Voluntary, non-compulsory family planning is a lot less expensive than most other ways of reducing CO2 emissions," he said. “It's one of the wedges, so to speak, among many that are needed" — a reference to a landmark 2004 paper that proposed using a number of different, currently available strategies to fight climate change, all represented as “wedges" on a graph that can help us ramp up to steep cuts in carbon emissions. Research published in 2010 found that slowing population growth could be a key wedge, providing 16 to 29% of emissions reductions needed by 2050.
Cizik argues that evangelical Christians can make a real difference by supporting funding for domestic and international family-planning programs. "Republican congressmen are not going to be persuaded that they need to change their views from wanting to defund Planned Parenthood, Title X, and all these programs by having liberals approach them," he said. “The only way you do it is by having conservatives, particularly evangelical conservatives, appeal to them on the basis that this is simply common sense."
“I do believe that good ideas drive out bad ideas, that ultimately evangelicals will themselves be persuaded by the evidence of the argument, and people change their minds. I changed my mind, and I used to be part of the group of people that are advocating for cutting Title X funding. I changed my mind because the evidence indicated that I needed to change my mind."
eZine for Jewish Women Talks of the Advantages and Disadvantages of Being ChildfreeDecember 05, 2012, 614::HBI eZINE
About 20% of the U.S. female population have chosen to be childfree, with this percentage having doubled in the last three decades. Women who choose to be childfree have to contend with being cast as social pariahs: "selfish," "self-centered," "baby-haters." "Given the rapid growth of this trend, we sought out a variety of perspectives on how this specifically impacts Jewish women".
The centrist New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good recently released a document calling for "common ground" support of family planning.
Rev. Jennifer Crumpton, adviser to the group said: "We affirm that the use of contraceptives is a responsible and morally acceptable means to greater control over the number and timing of births, and to improve the overall developing and flourishing of women and children."
Abortion is not included in the document's definition of "family planning." It emphasized that access to contraception prevents unintended pregnancies and reduces abortion, and stressed the need to avoid "confusion of family planning with abortion" that has led some religious groups to oppose both.
"It is urgent, urgent and imperative, that this issue be discussed and cleared up," said Crumpton, a Disciples of Christ minister.
The Rev. Richard Cizik, president of the two-year-old organization, said family planning used to be considered a "third rail" topic of discussion but his organization is now calling on churches to address it.
Cizik also worked as vice president for The National Association of Evangelicals, which has urged frank talk about the vast majority of young evangelicals engaged in premarital sex and briefly mentions family planning in its online "Theology of Sex" document.
A picture on the Internet shows an elderly woman holding a sign that says, "I can't believe I'm still protesting for birth control." 50 years since the Griswold decision, who could have predicted that contraception would once again be controversial?
90% of heterosexually active women use family planning, 90% of Americans believe that birth control use is morally acceptable, and 75% of voters in 2012 agree that "we should do everything we can to make sure that people who want to use prescription birth control have affordable access to it."
Yet, in the last two years, there have been efforts to pass so called "Personhood Amendments" that would criminalize hormonal methods of birth control, there was an attempt to defund Planned Parenthood, and contraceptive coverage in health care reform is being challenged by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops - they say its inclusion as a preventive health service an attack on "religious liberty." In addition, there have been increased restrictions on abortion and absurd statements by politicians' on how pregnancy does and doesn't occur,. With all this, the idea of a "war on women" seems all too true.
38 nationally recognized and theologically diverse religious leaders have joined together to affirm safe, affordable, accessible and comprehensive family planning services. They include current and past heads of the United Church of Christ, the Reformed Church in America, the Unitarian Universalist Association, and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)); presidents of seminaries such as the Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary, the Union Theological Seminary and Episcopal Divinity School; organizational heads of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good, the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice and Catholics for Choice); and nationally recognized theologians such as the Rev. Dr. Tony Campolo, the Rev. Dr. Larry Greenfield and Dr. Mary Hunt. They have all endorsed the Religious Institute's new Open Letter to Religious Leaders on Family Planning.
Earlier this spring a dozen Christian (mainline, Evangelical and Roman Catholic), Jewish and Muslim theologians created the Open Letter affirming that, "in a just world, all people would have equal access to contraception. The denial of family planning services effectively translates into coercive childbearing is an insult to human dignity." They called on hospitals and health services, regardless of religious affiliation, to provide or refer to contraceptive services, and reminded those who would oppose such services, that "no single faith can claim final moral authority in domestic or international discourse." They urged religious leaders to "advocate for increased U.S. financial support for domestic and global family planning services." .. "Contraception allows for a fulfilling sexual life while reducing maternal and infant mortality, unintended pregnancies, abortions, and sexually transmitted diseases."
The Central Conference of American Rabbis (Reform Judaism) and the Lambeth Conference of the Anglican Communion passed the first religious organization policies supporting contraception in 1929 and 1930, respectively. Today, at least 14 major denominations, including the Church of the Latter Day Saints (Mormons), the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America and the Seventh Day Adventist Church have policies supporting contraception.
Australia: Anglicans: We Have to Acknowledge and Respond to Population Issues in Order to Care for LifeOctober 15, 2010, Chair of the Anglican General Synod Public Affairs Commission
At a time when the Catholic church is so often in the news for appalling attitudes to population, it is heartening to see the Anglicans making informed and moral observations about the need to reign in population growth.
The General Synod has now endorsed the viewpoint of its Public Affairs Committee. We have to acknowledge and respond to population issues in order to care for life. The Anglican General Synod of Australia recently held its three-yearly meeting, at which a motion about the need to acknowledge and respond to population issues in order to care for life on our planet was warmly supported.
The Lambeth conference of bishops from the world-wide Anglican communion reaffirmed a decade ago that the divine Spirit is in Creation and human beings have a responsibility to make sacrifices for the common good of all life.
This year the Public Affairs Commission of the Australian Anglican Church presented a discussion paper on population issues which formed the basis for the attached motion recently passed by the national Synod.
The Synod has called on Anglicans to grow in understanding of global and national environmental challenges and the fundamental role of human population growth and consumption in contributing to them. It has encouraged individuals and the church to reduce their levels of consumption, and to contribute thoughtfully and prayerfully to public debate about how to achieve justice for future as well as current Australians and to nurture life on this fragile land with all its beauty and diversity. It emphasized the need to share in a world of finite resources, showing concern particularly for neighbours who live in the poorest two-thirds of the world.
The Synod called on the Australian Government to avoid any reliance on population growth to maintain economic growth; to determine a sustainable population policy for Australia; to consider carefully any incentive aimed specifically and primarily at increasing Australia's population, while continuing to support low-income families; and to contribute more generously to improving the welfare of people in the least developed nations, and other life in their environments, in particular by including support for family planning and women's reproductive health programs with aid for development.
Australia's Anglican Church has linked overpopulation to the eighth commandment 'Thou shall not steal'. The governing body of Australia's Anglican Church has released a discussion paper that states "out of care for the whole of creation, particularly the poorest of humanity and the life forms who cannot speak for themselves, it is not responsible to stand by and remain silent [on the issue of overpopulation]."
The paper adds that "unless we take account of the needs of future life on Earth, there is a case that we break the eighth commandment—'thou shall not steal'."
The General Synod recommends that the federal government should no longer encourage population growth with financial incentives, such as the controversial 'baby bonus' whereby the Australian government pays a mother 4,000 Australian dollars every time she has a new baby. The bonus, which was put into effect beginning in 2004, has been linked to Australia's ongoing baby boom, the largest since the 1970s.
"In the context of unsustainable global population growth it is inconsistent and arguably irresponsible to provide financial incentives for population increase," the Australian Anglican Church says.
Currently some 6.8 billion people inhabit the Earth. Scientists estimate that by 2050 that number will rise to 9 billion before leveling out. Environmentalists say that overpopulation is leading to worsening climate change, unsustainable resource use, mass extinction, deforestation, pollution, and food and water shortages.
Church Sex Education Program Preaches More Than Abstinence; Our Whole Lives Takes Broader Approach Than Other Faith-based ClassesMarch 27, 2007, Contra Costa Times (US)
Our Whole Lives, a product of Unitarian-Universalists and the United Church of Christ, has proved popular at both churches, each has trained more than 1,000 teachers.
Unitarian and United Church of Christ youths will lobby their congressional representatives for more money for comprehensive sex ed programs in public schools.
Our Whole Lives stresses of abstinence, also includes birth control, safe sex practices and sexual orientation.
These are done within the context of a loving, committed relationship. Only one family has ever opted out. In another case, the parents took the materials home and taught the course themselves.
Many say the misinformation that abounds in the schoolyard mandates a pre-emptive approach.
Although 15- to 24-year-olds make up a quarter of the nation's sexually active population, they account for nearly half of all new sexually transmitted infections a year. People are going to develop sexually whether ready for it or not.
One of its goals is to open communication, so that children can chat comfortably with parents about intimate issues.
The state requires schools to give only HIV/AIDS education, once in middle school and once in high school. A 2004 California law calls on schools that do offer broader sex ed to make sure the courses are medically accurate, age-appropriate and free of religious ideology.
In choosing to teach about condoms and contraception, the state passed up millions of dollars the federal government makes available to abstinence-only programs.
More than half of Americans believe that teaching teens how to obtain and use condoms does not rush them into sex. A survey found nearly two-thirds of adults and more than three-quarters of teens calling on faith institutions to do more to help prevent teen pregnancy.
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Being Religious and Concerned About Population: Are We Outgrowing Our Planet?October 29, 2011, The Rev. Robert F. Murphy
by The Rev. Robert F. Murphy, Unitarian Universalist minister in Falmouth, Massachusetts
When in Genesis God says repeatedly, "Be fruitful and multiply," the same instructions are delivered to humans and to others. The Bible tells us that God is concerned about the whole of nature. Later, after God had rescued Noah and his animal companions, God placed a rainbow in the sky as a sign of the Deity's covenant with all living creatures. The world doesn't exist for the sole benefit of one race, one nation, one gender, or even one species.
The Day of Seven Billion is day when religious reflection on population issues will be appropriate. Individuals who are concerned about social responsibility are encouraged to address the issue. Religious leaders have discussed family planning and sex education programs, marriage and adoption rights, the prevention of teenage pregnancies, and a long list of other concerns. While all of these matters are relevant, important and need immediate attention, the fact that the human population is still growing is seldom mentioned.
In 1930, the size of the world's human population was close to two billion. It was four billion as recently as 1974, and now it's 7 billion. Even though worldwide rate of population growth has declined during recent years, there could be 10 billion people in the year 2050.
Rapid population growth coupled with high levels of consumption will lead much of the world to economic ruin. The gap between rich and poor is widening in some nations. When you discuss population growth, note the inequities that exist in the world and acknowledge the influence of technology and human consumption on environmental quality. Then, at some point, ask the question, "Are there too many people in the world?"
While we don't know if the world can support a human population of 10 or 15 billion, it's apparent the supply of many natural resources is limited. Understand concepts like "carrying capacity." If the worldwide supply of oil continues to decline, while the human population is expanding and the developing nations are industrializing, the results may be catastrophic. As arable lands and fresh water become scarce, nations will compete with each other, and, in some places, the competition may become violent.
38% of pregnancies in the world are unwanted, according to the Alan Guttmacher Institute. Unwanted pregnancies often produce unwanted children, and, in the poorest regions of the world, children are often abandoned and easily exploited and abused. There are tens of millions of these children on the planet. Without adequate protection and care, many will become criminals, many will be exploited in sweatshops and on plantations, and many will become child prostitutes and child soldiers. Will religious leaders and social workers discuss family planning and the need for social services?
The increase in the human population is caused, in part, by the increase in life expectancy in many nations. Which leads to more questions about the future of families, the economy and the environment. Some Americans who are now past the age of 60 will retire to a life of comfort. Others will be pushed out of the workforce and into a life of poverty and neglect. Ask, "What, if anything, does our society owe to its senior citizens?" Raise that question in the population growth discussion.
The great religions remind us that the world does not exist for our species alone. Cormorants and turtles have their place in the community of life. As human beings demand more and more, more species will become endangered. Ask the religious question, "What moral responsibility, if any, do human beings have to protect biodiversity?"
At some point, religious leaders, in all of the faith traditions, need to put their differences aside in order to think and to think again about population growth. The quick and simple answers that have been suggested in the past are inadequate. Something new is needed.
Pray that we get it right.
The Rev. Murphy received a Special Service Award from the national Sierra Club in recognition of his ministry. Last year, he represented the Sierra Club in Ethiopia, studying family planning and environmental justice issues.
U.S.: Evangelical Use of Contraception is High, Family Planning Funding Reflects Needs and Desires of Most WomenApril 17, 2011, The Colorado Independent
In refusing to defund Planned Parenthood, US senators voted to protect family planning services that are important to some of the same people who so vehemently oppose abortion: Christians, and Evangelicals in particular, according to a new report by the Guttmacher Institute . The study shows that 99% of all women who have had sex have at one point used a contraceptive method other than natural family planning (such as periodic abstinence, temperature rhythm and cervical mucus tests).
Only 2% of Catholic women use naturally family planning and over 40% of Evangelicals rely on male or female sterilization, a figure higher than that of other religious groups.
This is the breakdown of religious women who are sexually active but do not want to get pregnant and, therefore, use a highly effective method of birth control, such as sterilization, hormonal birth control pills or the IUD : 69% of all denominations, 68% of Catholics, 73% of Mainline Protestants, 74% of Evangelicals.
Among all women who have had sex, 99% have ever used a contraceptive method other than natural family planning. This figure is virtually the same, 98%, among sexually experienced Catholic women.
Guttmacher based religious beliefs on womens admitted attendance to religious services and questions about their religiosity. 83% of women reported a religious affiliation: 48% identified as Protestant, among whom 53% said they are Evangelical and 47% who claim to be Mainline Protestant (including Methodists, Presbyterians and other groups); 25% are Catholic; and 11% identify with another religion such as Buddhism, Islam or Judaism.
Gutthmacher concluded that contraceptive use by Catholics and Evangelicals, including those who frequently attend religious services, is the widespread norm, not the exception. The implications for policymakers are clear: Policies that make contraceptives more affordable and easier to use are not just sound public health policy, they also reflect the needs and desires of the vast majority of American women and their partners, regardless of their religious affiliation.
Opinion: the Elephant in the RoomApril 12, 2010, WOA
All this about Global Warming and Climategate (from both sides) seems a bit pitiful while we ignore the elephant in the room.
The Earth's population is increasing inexorably, and this trumps every effort to save resources and the environment. Without population control, the environment is literally doomed.
Catholics are among the biggest offenders, but Pagans, Muslims, and some protestant sects also participate.
I hate anecdotal examples, but here I go with one anyway. I use it because it illustrates in microcosm the problem in much of the world.
One of Ben's and my wards is a Maasai, the star student in a school far from the beaten path on the edge of the Serengeti. The Maasai culture is traditionally pastoral and (in hard times) nomadic, but development and national boundaries have made them more sessile.
They have religious taboos against eating wild animals, bless them! - although killing a lion with a spear has been a rite of passage. But the lion does have a chance. When we visited, the weather had been kind of dry and the cattle were skinny, but people were getting along.
The drought has continued and worsened. The cattle are starving and the people will follow suit. In the old days, the village might have picked up stakes and moved to greener pastures. Or if the famine were widespread, many would have perished, reducing the overpopulation for a generation or two.
We are facing a dilemma. Our ward emailed us recently asking us to support his family in the crisis. How many? Well, there are his mom and dad. And five brothers and sisters. And 24 half-brothers and sisters and five other wives. (Maasai are polygamous. Don't even mention family planning.)
Get the picture? About five kids per mom, a massive generational increase in an already stressed resource base. Some could move to the City ... and do what? Beg?
So. We or the Tanzanian government could provide food to bring them through the current famine. That leaves everyone poised on the edge of the Serengeti, in an area already defoliated and overgrazed.
Or we and the government could ignore the issue. Some would move to Arusha and Dar es Salaam, abandoning their families and culture. Imagine the Amish being forced to move to the slums of Philadelphia and Baltimore. The rest would remain at the traditional homeland, and some would starve.
Wouldn't birth control have been a better solution? Why don't people talk about this?
U.S. Religions Quietly Launch a Sexual RevolutionFebruary 24, 2010, Women's Enews
A think tank, The Religious Institute, in a a 46-page manifesto on the state of sexuality in religious communities has said that silence should be broken about a host of sexuality issues. The manifesto is titled: "Sexuality and Religion 2020: Goals for the Next Decade."
Goals include improved pastoral care of marital relationships, domestic abuse and infertility, and training for prospective clergy in sexuality-related matters.
According to the manifesto, religious leaders should provide lifelong age-appropriate education for youth and adults and to become more effective advocates for comprehensive sexuality education and sexual and reproductive health in society.
Clergymen who are often first responders in matters of domestic violence and potential (and actual) suicides by young people struggling with sexual identity have usually received little to no training for the job.
The document offers an uncompromised progressive vision that does not seek "common ground" with conservative evangelicals and Catholics.
It calls for full access to reproductive health care, including abortion, marriage equality, full inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in the life of religious communities.
The report as generated only a little media attention but progress is already being made.
The president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary saw it as "evidence of the continued subversion of biblical authority and confessional integrity that characterizes the revolt against orthodoxy in so many churches."
But he acknowledged: "Our pews are filled with people worried about their sexuality, wondering how to understand these things, struggling with same-sex attractions, tempted to stray from their marriages, enticed by Internet pornography and wondering how to bring their sexuality under submission to Christ." And evangelicals "should not avoid its urgency in calling pastors and Christian leaders to teach and preach about sex and sexuality."
The Religious Institute is a national network of more than 5,000 clergy and religious leaders from 50 religious traditions. Its founder Rev. Debra Haffner, is a former executive director of SIECUS (Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States), the nation's leading association of sex educators.
Advances have been made in the last 10 years, with female clergy taking leadership roles in major denominations; a woman is presiding bishop of The Episcopal Church; Lesbian, gay, transgendered and bisexual people gaining acceptance; and marriage equality being recognized by the United Church of Christ, the Union for Reform Judaism, Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association and the Unitarian Universalist Association.
One Church recently announced that clergy will now be required to be "competent" to address matters of sexuality in the lives of their parishioners.
The manifesto said that 75% of progressive clergy had not addressed sex education and 40% had not preached about sexual orientation over a two year period. 70% had never preached on reproductive justice.
Issues that parishoners have where they need the help of clergy are: sexual abuse, marriages breaking up, and infertility.
When matters of sexuality are avoided, it shows up in clergy sex-abuse scandals. "And it's not just the Catholics." When you can't talk about it in your churches, where can you talk about it. Silence contributes to people's alienation and aloneness.
Five mainstream denominations are working on mandatory sexual competence for clergy and 15 denominations on matters that affect everyone. a number of denominations have focused on issues of domestic violence. All would benefit from clergy training and open discussion of matters of sexuality, including the teaching of young people and strategies for keeping children safe from sexual predators.
Dr. Martin Marty, the eminent historian of religion at the University of Chicago compared sexuality to religion. "If you get it right, it's beautiful. But if you get it wrong, it really messes you up."
The 15 nations of the world with the lowest total fertility rates are predominantly Catholic countries. In addition, the data indicates that the outlook of Muslims is changing toward contraception. Imans and Mullas are more willing to put forth favorable fatawas on that issue.
All the non-Muslim nations that border on the Muslim world will be delighted, since that interface is where many of the armed conflicts are taking place, or have taken place in recent decades. Elsewhere on the website is data that shows armed conflict increases markedly with total fertility rate.
Unmarried women have been discriminated against by lawmakers in a health bill with religious overtones. This bill, which precludes them from reproductive health treatments, and which requires a recommendation from a religious panelas a requirement for approving abortions in life-threatening pregnancies or for rape victims - will replace the 1992 Health Law, which does not regulate reproductive health.
"The bill is a step backwards from the current Health Law."
In Jakarta, many sexually active unmarried women have found it difficult to get professional advice about reproductive health without having to face judgmental medical workers.
There is concern that there would be more bureaucratic procedures in hospitals to access reproductive health.
The legislation would increase the psychological trauma rape victims suffer. Especially as the provided period only allows for abortions in the first six weeks of pregnancy, which is basically unrealistic because in this period, women are often not aware of their pregnancy.
In Mahayana teachings, abortion is considered murder.
A coalition of religious leaders took on the Catholic Church, the U.S. Supreme Court and the administration with a plea to take religion out of health care in the US.
Last week's Supreme Court decision outlawing a certain type of abortion demonstrated that religious belief was interfering with personal rights and the U.S. health care system in general.
The group said it planned to submit its proposals to other church groups and lobby Congress and state legislators.
Concerns are being raised in religious communities about the ethics of denying services.
The group also complained about Catholic-owned hospitals that refuse to sterilize women, refuse to let doctors perform abortions and do not provide contraception.
Doctors, pharmacists and nurses are also increasingly refusing to provide essential services on moral or religious grounds. The government is codifying these refusals, through legislation and the recent Supreme Court decision, where five Catholic men decided that they could better determine what was moral and good.
The group includes ordained Protestant ministers, a Jewish activist, an expert on women's reproductive rights and several physicians.
Health care decisions ought to be made freely, based on medical expertise and individual conscience.
Allow doctors to use best medical practices, providing comprehensive counseling on sexual or reproductive health and honor advance directives -- including "do not resuscitate" orders.
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