Pro-Choice Lobby Day Statement March 7, 2018 by the Reverend Stephan Papa

I am a minister because I believe in religion. I am a member of the Colorado Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice because religious freedom is important to me, and because I am an American. One reason the United States of America is a good nation is because those who founded it wrote into the Bill of Rights the separation of church and state; Jefferson even said there should be a wall between them. They knew that one religious view given state sanction prevented the “free exercise” of other views. To have religious freedom is why their ancestors fled other countries. To this day we can see the stifling effects on freedom of speech, assembly, and religion in countries that have empowered one religious identity over others.

The founders of our country knew that religion involves questions about the mysteries of life, its origin and defining factors such as when lives are considered sacred, and when it is morally justifiable to take a life. Today we are even more aware that different religions teach different things about when developing lives are considered inviolable. For example, some religions say that at the moment of conception the embryo is imbued with the right to life; other religions teach that it is not until the moment of birth, when the first breath of air is taken, that its rights are equal to those of the mother; some people believe people and their rights develop along a continuum between conception and birth.

Individuals differ in their beliefs about when the soul enters the body and when it leaves; in secular terms that is when you are you, your unique personality, and when you are no longer you, but just a body; so we see these religious differences focused on the nine months of development in utero, and at the end of life when a person is being kept alive by machines, for example.

As Americans we put our faith in the Constitution, in democracy, in people. It takes faith to trust in people. People of faith, like those in the Colorado Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice “bring the moral power of religious communities to ensure reproductive choice….” People of faith trust women to make their own decisions about their own bodies according to their own beliefs. We believe in women, in their freedom, and we believe in America and its promise to honor religious diversity because we know that is better than having one religious view forced on everyone by the government. So, let us be faithful to the Constitution’s Bill of Rights that proclaims “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof….” People of traditional or humanistic faith as well as those who are irreligious, all are called as Americans to affirm religious freedom! And if you are a person of faith, faith in God, or people, freedom, or democracy, then you are called all the more right now to fight for it because reproductive justice, access, is been severely challenged! So may we all be free. Amen.

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