Religious leaders from interfaith backgrounds call for Planned Parenthood support

by Gregory Tomlin |

(REUTERS/Gary Cameron)Planned Parenthood Federation president Cecile Richards is sworn in before she testifies before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on Capitol Hill in Washington Sept. 29, 2015. Forty-four religious leaders with the Religious Institute have issued a statement of support for Planned Parenthood.

WESPORT, Conn. (Christian Examiner) – As Planned Parenthood's President and CEO Cecile Richards testified before Congress about a series of undercover videos exposing the group's trade in and profit from fetal body parts Sept. 29, she did so knowing she had a few key endorsements in her back pocket – and from some unusual allies.

Forty-four leaders of religious denominations and non-profits issued a statement of support for the abortion mill the day before, asking Congress to avoid the push from Republican lawmakers to defund its more than $500 million line item in the federal budget.

According to the Religious Institute, leaders from Christian (read "Progressive Christian"), Jewish, Catholic, Unitarian Universalist and Muslim groups believe Planned Parenthood should continue to be able to ply its trade in women's "reproductive health care."

As religious leaders, we support family planning as a means of saving lives, improving reproductive and public health, enhancing sexuality, and encouraging intentional parenthood. We stand with people of faith who have supported Planned Parenthood for nearly one hundred years.
- Statement from the Religious Institute

"As religious leaders, we urge Congress to resist efforts to deny federal funds to Planned Parenthood's non-profit health centers, and other organizations that provide crucial reproductive health care," a statement from the group said.

"We ask for an end to politically motivated attacks on women's sexual and reproductive health. We know that Planned Parenthood provides essential lifesaving services to almost three million people each year, including the most vulnerable families in the U.S. As religious leaders, we support family planning as a means of saving lives, improving reproductive and public health, enhancing sexuality, and encouraging intentional parenthood. We stand with people of faith who have supported Planned Parenthood for nearly one hundred years."

Human sexuality is what binds the disparate beliefs of the religious leaders who signed the statement. According to the organization's website, the group was founded in 2001 as a "multifaith organization dedicated to advocating for sexual health, education, and justice in faith communities and society. The Religious Institute has emerged as the national leadership organization working at the intersection of sexuality and religion."

"Our staff provide clergy, congregations, and denominational bodies with technical assistance on addressing sexuality and reproductive health, and assist sexual and reproductive health (SRH) organizations on addressing religious issues and developing outreach to faith communities. Our partners include the leading mainstream and progressive religious institutions in the United States, as well as the major SRH and LGBT advocacy organizations."

Among those who signed the statement was Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, as well as Sharon Watkins, general minister and president of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

Jon O'Brien, who leads a group called Catholics for Choice, frequently at odds with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, also signed the statement, as did Pat Bumgardner, an elder and executive director for the Global Justice Institute with the Metropolitan Community Church – a predominately homosexual denomination.

A university president, seminary president and divinity school dean, also signed the statement. Those signatories included Emilie Townes, dean of the Vanderbilt University Divinity School; Lee Barker, president of Meadville Lombard Theological School; and David Vásquez-Levy, president of the Pacific School of Religion.

The full list of signatories to the statement is available here.

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