Today, on International Women's Day, the Women's Ordination Conference, a U.S.-based organization working for the ordination of women in the Roman Catholic Church, launched an interfaith campaign calling out gender injustice and sexism in faith traditions.
Women from the Roman Catholic, Muslim, Orthodox Jewish, Mormon, and the Missouri Lutheran Synod traditions have joined in solidarity to unequivocally call for the end of gender-based discrimination in religious traditions. In the spirit of International Women's Day, faith leaders and feminists are speaking out for the inclusion of women's full participation in religious traditions.
When the Women's Ordination Conference asked its allies in the feminists of faith community how women's equality in faith would change the world, two themes emerged in the answers collected: women's inequality in faith traditions is an affront to the integrity of religion and God, and the consequences of inequality in religion are vast and violent.
Following are highlights shared from notable women of faith and feminist organizations:
"If we are to believe that God is not meant just for men, but for both men and women, then we cannot believe that men alone hold the keys... The exclusion of women from religious leadership and tradition is an affront to God's purpose, which is to be known by and through us all."
--Muslim leader and lawyer, Rabia Chaudry.
"Full and equal participation will signal a disentanglement from the ancient bias that gives religion a bad name and the world will know that it was social prejudice, and not the tenets of religions themselves, that led to distorted traditions and the exclusion of women."
--Miriam Duignan from the Catholic group, Women's Ordination Worldwide.
The sense of co-opting religion to subjugate women to subordinate roles directly feeds societal permissions to perpetrate violence and abuses against women. The interconnection is clear: when women are not seen and treated as equals at all levels, we risk the safety and security of women and the sanctity of our faith traditions.
"Exclusion, based on spiritual devaluation, is at the root of domestic violence, rape, and the diminished value placed on the work of women along with a corresponding pay inequality."
--Carol Schmidt, from the Missouri Lutheran Synod based group Ordain Women Now!
"To subjugate women and deny them access to decision-making authority in any community - religious or otherwise - not only opens up a space for more extreme forms of abuse, it also robs all of us of their untapped talents, gifts and abilities. Everyone is subject to the negative impact of religious beliefs and practices that marginalize women."
--Lorie Winder from the Mormon group, Ordain Women.
"Battling gender discrimination for more than 27 years, the members of the Orthodox Jewish group Women of the Wall (WOW), continue to pursue the full inclusion of women in ritual life at the Western Wall, despite violent opposition. Members of WOW have personally endured violent attacks on their homes and bodies, even at the holy site of the Western Wall. However, their recent successful legal battles and negotiations with the State of Israel have paved the way for a new pluralistic section at the Western Wall, which moveover, they believe will change how people of religions and belief see women: as equals, as leaders and as autonomous."
"Women cannot be on the sidelines of their religious communities if their traditions are to endure and thrive."
--Talia Lakritz, Orthodox Jewish Feminist and YouTube contributor.
"This International Women's Day, the Women's Ordination Conference joins our sisters of faith in solidarity to underscore our conviction that religion can liberate, rather than subjugate women. Together through our witness and courage, we must ensure the security, safety and equal opportunity to women and girls, and we will continue to organize until all our communities are free from the sins of sexism."
--Kate McElwee and Erin Saiz Hanna, Co-Executive Directors, Women's Ordination Conference