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Stance on abortion politics varies widely among US clergy


James Altman is a Roman Catholic priest in Wisconsin, little identified exterior his parish till a couple of weeks in the past. Robert Jeffress is the high-profile pastor of a Baptist megachurch in Dallas. They’ve a message in widespread for members of their faiths: Voting for Democrats who help abortion rights is an evil doubtlessly deserving of everlasting damnation.

Their fierce, brazenly partisan rhetoric is attention-grabbing, nevertheless it stays the exception in America’s numerous spiritual panorama, even on this divisive election yr. Most members of the clergy, together with foes of abortion, keep away from overt endorsements or denunciations of political candidates. Quite a few denominations attempt to body their stance on abortion in ways in which respect a number of viewpoints.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, for instance, has adhered for 3 many years to a nuanced policy aimed toward respecting churchgoers on all sides of the talk.

“We are saying that abortion ought to be seen as a path of final resort, however we defend a lady’s proper to make choices over her personal physique,” mentioned Bishop Paul Egensteiner, who heads the ELCA’s Metropolitan New York Synod.

The Nationwide Affiliation of Evangelicals, which represents about 45,000 church buildings, declares in a policy statement that it “actively, ardently and unwaveringly opposes abortion on demand,” however concurrently appeals for civility.

“We don’t dismiss those that advocate for authorized entry to abortion as unconcerned for human life or unworthy of our respect and a focus,” it says.

Such stances and tones differ sharply from these supplied just lately by Altman and Jeffress.

“You can’t be Catholic and be a Democrat,” Altman mentioned in a YouTube video, admonishing folks to “repent of your help of that occasion and its platform or face the fires of hell.” His feedback have been criticized by many Catholics, whereas endorsed by some others, equivalent to Bishop Joseph Strickland of the Tyler, Texas, diocese.

Jeffress, the pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas and a detailed ally of Donald Trump, employs equally robust language in denouncing the president’s opponent.

“So long as Joe Biden and the Democratic Social gathering proceed to help unrestricted abortion for any purpose and at any stage in a being pregnant, monks and pastors like myself can have no drawback saying, ‘Solely Christians who’ve offered their soul to the satan would vote for Joe Biden,’” Jeffress mentioned by way of e-mail.

Jeffress’ church is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Conference, the nation’s largest Protestant denomination. Its management adopted a stringent anti-abortion stance almost 40 years in the past that continues to be in place.

Daniel Patterson, a vp of the Southern Baptists’ public coverage arm, mentioned a lot of the denomination’s pastors don’t interact in partisan politics from the pulpit, though they’re free to handle abortion and different points as they see match.

The Rev. Kevin Smith, government director of the Baptist Conference of Maryland/Delaware and one of many SBC’s highest-ranking Black leaders, criticized Christians who stress their opposition to abortion whereas minimizing the issue of racism, and objected to the partisanship making inroads in some church buildings.

“Whereas too many so-called pastors look forward to the morning speaking factors from their chosen political occasion, too many are failing at a vital pastoral job,” he tweeted final month.

Earlier this month, the Nationwide Affiliation of Evangelicals issued a statement repenting for shortcomings in combating poverty and racial inequality. It pledged to “resist being co-opted by political agendas” and to uphold a “complete pro-life ethic that protects each the unborn and the susceptible of all ages.”

The affiliation’s president, the Rev. Walter Kim, mentioned many NAE pastors preach about varied insurance policies however most keep away from political endorsements.

One NAE board member, the Rev. Mitch Hescox, is CEO of the Evangelical Environmental Network, which urges pastors to broaden the idea of “pro-life” so it encompasses efforts to guard the atmosphere.

“It could behoove pastors to be caring about folks, moderately than taking over politics,” Hescox mentioned. “We’re imagined to be a voice for our values and never select sides.”

Some mainline Protestant denominations have official positions supporting reproductive rights.

Entry to abortion, says a 2018 Episcopal Church resolution, “is an integral a part of a lady’s battle to claim her dignity and value.”

The United Church of Christ has an identical coverage. Its president, the Rev. John Dorhauer, mentioned he’s angered by warnings from some pastors that churchgoers danger betraying their religion with their political selections.

“Telling a member with a conscience and ethical company {that a} vote for a specific occasion or candidate is a violation of 1’s religion is, in my humble opinion, unethical and immoral,” he mentioned.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, identified for its conservative social views, says abortions “for private or social comfort” violate church teachings and might result in excommunication.

Nevertheless, the church says distinctive circumstances could justify some abortions, equivalent to when being pregnant outcomes from incest or rape or a lady’s well being is in danger.

Matthew Bowman, a professor of historical past and faith at Claremont Graduate College, mentioned most of that church’s members oppose abortion however its leaders haven’t used the problem as a political rallying cry.

In Judaism, America’s largest non-Christian religion, abortion hasn’t been as politicized as in Christian denominations. Each the Conservative and Reform branches say abortion is suitable underneath varied circumstances, and the choice is as much as the girl concerned.

Orthodox Jews are extra open to restrictions on elective abortions, mentioned Rabbi Avi Shafram, spokesman for Agudath Israel of America,

However his Orthodox umbrella group “wouldn’t help any regulation that offers an unborn youngster ‘personhood’, since Jewish spiritual regulation does counsel abortion in some uncommon instances,” Shafran mentioned by way of e-mail. “We’d, although, prefer to see abortion handled with larger gravity, as greater than a mere ‘girl’s alternative.’”

For a lot of Muslim Individuals, abortion is “primarily a non-issue,” in response to Atiya Aftab, who chairs the Heart for Islamic Life at Rutgers College.

“From the formative days of Islamic Regulation over 1,000 years in the past, classical students took various positions on abortion from its permissibility to its prohibition,” she mentioned by way of e-mail.

More moderen Islamic students have issued numerous rulings, together with on when life begins. Abortion is usually frowned on if poverty is the motive, however accepted if a ladies’s well being is in danger.

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Related Press faith protection receives help from the Lilly Endowment via the Faith Information Basis. The AP is solely answerable for this content material.

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