(CNSNews.com) – Former Democratic President Jimmy Carter said the Roman Catholic and Southern Baptist policies of not having female clergy leads to the "abuse of women."
“My wife is perhaps the most famous Baptist deacon in the world, but in the Southern Baptist Convention there’s a policy that women cannot be pastors, they cannot be deacons, they cannot be chaplains, and in some of the Southern Baptist seminaries or universities, it’s prohibited for a woman to teach a classroom that has boys as students,” Carter said. “And we know that the Catholic Church ordained back in the third or fourth century that women could not serve as priests. They could be teachers. They could be nurses. But they can’t be priests.”
As the former president explained it, the early Christian church leaders included women, even female “apostles and priests,” until men took over who expressed their “opinion, which has now become almost law” that women are “not equal in the eyes of God.”
“Well, this leads to much of the abuse of women,” Carter said. “In marriage, some men consider their wives to be inferior to them and they therefore sexually abuse and economically abuse their women almost as slaves. And in some countries, we know, both Christian and Islamic and others, laws preclude women from serving as equals.”
Carter delivered his remarks at the Carter Center’s conference “Mobilizing Faith for Women: Engaging the Power of Religion and Belief to Advance Human Rights and Dignity.” The event was held on June 28 in Atlanta, Ga., and included religious leaders, religious scholars and activists from around the world.
Carter, who was a deacon of a racially segregated church in Georgia up to the point of becoming president, drew parity with Catholics, Protestants, and Muslims in what he called discrimination against women by not allowing female clergy.
He also said these views violated the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights and promoted pay inequality in the United States.
“Let me take Article 23: Everyone without any discrimination has the right to equal pay for equal work,” Carter said. “The employers of America looking at the religious ordination that women are not equal don’t feel constrained to pay women equally for the same work that a man does. In our country, women are paid on average 70 percent as much pay for doing the same work as men.”
After citing several passages from the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Carter said religious leaders were partly responsible for countries not implementing those rights.
“These are the paragraphs from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and every country is sworn to implement these laws of equality in their laws and in their treatment of men and women,” Carter said. “They don’t do it and quite often the excuse for not doing it is because religious leaders say that women are inferior.”
Carter left the Southern Baptist Convention in 2000 to become part of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. His church, the Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, Ga., where Carter has taught Sunday school since 1981, also joined the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.
Carter joined the integrated Maranatha Baptist Church after leaving the segregated Plains Baptist Church after he lost his presidential reelection run in 1980 against Ronald Reagan.
The book The Real Jimmy Carter by Stephen F. Hayword states, “In 1965, when Carter was a state senator, his church, which had been de facto but not formally segregated (blacks regularly attended special events like weddings, funerals and baptisms), decided to make an official policy of barring blacks – physically if necessary – from attending Sunday worship service. Carter was a deacon in the church, but missed the meeting at which the vote was taken.”
An Oct. 18, 2010 Washington Post article further explained that Maranatha was formed during the Carter presidency by members of the Plains Baptist Church who left over the issue of integration.
“It was formed, while Carter was still president, by a small group who defected from Carter’s former place of worship, Plains Baptist Church, which refused to admit black members,” The Post said. “In his book, Carter writes that he’d attended Plains Baptist since childhood and tried unsuccessfully to integrate the church when he was a deacon in the 1960s – the congregation voted 50-6 against his proposal, he writes. While he was president, protesters demonstrated outside the church, but it remained segregated. Carter joined the integrated Maranatha church after leaving the presidency.”