Strongly-religious not necessarily socially conservative

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

By Cathy Levy, Ohio Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice

I get so frustrated when people assume that all religious people are conservative.  In early October,  Columbus, Ohio's newspaper (the Dispatch), put out a great article about the various faith-issues that drive voters.  It was a fair article, giving equal time to both parties.  What irked me was the trend that was cited that noted most strongly-religious people are conservative, and the rest are progressive.  There's that darn stereotype again.

Feeling frustrated, I decided to write a letter to the editor, and they printed it!  It appears below--along with some great photos.

As a deeply religious Presbyterian that works hard for pro-choice causes and for other social justice issues, and as someone who works for these causes because of my call to love my neighbor and "seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly," these stereotypes not only anger me, but they also steal the moral high ground from our progressive movements and suck away some of our power.  I think we deserve this high ground.  I think it's time we seize our share.  I think it's high time that we stand proudly as religious, moral, spiritual leaders, and stand up against the injustices with a clear voice.

An article entitled Faith-linked issues guide some voters in the October 5th Columbus Dispatch cited a trend that “strong believers” in religion tend to be conservative Republicans and others tend to be Democrats.

I am wondering whether this trend analysis might have overlooked the “strong believers” such as myself and so many of my friends and colleagues, who are truly not conservative when it comes to social issues. As a leader of a nonpartisan, interfaith, pro-choice organization, the Ohio Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, I see an altogether-different trend.

Progressive, tolerant, religious, spiritual and moral people tend to be very polite and nice when other religious people claim contrary beliefs. This often stems from our devotion to our country’s religious freedom and freedom of speech, so we generously grant rights to diverse opinions and ways of life. We are peaceful.

Since we are so polite and nice, the media, and perhaps the trend-analyzers, don’t notice us. It’s time for us to get noticed. When conservative people try to control other people’s decision-making and lives in order to “express” their religious principles, either through stigma, law, restrictive insurance policies or an oppressive lack of opportunity, we have to step up and call that social injustice.
We “strongly religious” people must vote, speak, write, march, pray and cry out to oppose such injustice. We must work, in peace, for change that will create a more-tolerant community where strong families of every shape and size are supported and loved.

Indeed, “strongly religious” people need to speak up so that we are not lumped into the conservative stereotype suggested by the trend-analyzers, and more importantly, so that we can help bring about the change that hearts ache for.

Cathy Levy is the Executive Director of the Ohio Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice.  Ohio RCRC brings the moral power of religious communities to bear to insure reproductive choice, freedom, and justice through education, advocacy, and counseling.