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Carter Calls for Gender Equality in the Baptist Church

(AP Photo/Atef Safadi, Pool)
Former President Jimmy Carter is getting some attention for recently reiterating his separation from the Southern Baptist Convention due to gender discrimination. In an opinion piece that appeared in The Observer, a weekly newspaper in London, the former president said "the words of God do not justify cruelty to women."

In the op-ed last week, Mr. Carter called his severance with the church "painful and difficult." Yet, he said his decision was "unavoidable," as the church preached sexism, using examples of Adam and Eve to fuel female subservience and prohibiting women from serving in the church.

"The truth is that male religious leaders have had - and still have - an option to interpret holy teachings either to exalt or subjugate women," Mr. Carter wrote. "They have, for their own selfish ends, overwhelmingly chosen the latter."

Mr. Carter says that such beliefs justify many crimes in addition to denying them access to equal education, employment, and other benefits.

"The view that women are somehow inferior to men is not restricted to one religion or belief," Mr. Carter wrote. "This discrimination, unjustifiably attributed to a Higher Authority, has provided a reason or excuse for the deprivation of women's equal rights across the world for centuries."

The former president says he and a group of prominent independent global leaders are challenging world leaders to change such teachings and practices.

"It is simply self-defeating for any community to discriminate against half its population," Mr. Carter wrote. "We need to challenge these self-serving and outdated attitudes and practices."

Mr. Carter says the sexism by the church is not only a "clear violation" of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights set down by the United Nations, but also a violation of the teachings of many religious figures.

The former president announced his severance in 2000, after the church took a position against women pastors.