by Edd Doerr
Labels and stereotypes are deceptive, confusing and get in the way of clear thinking. Example: "Baptist". Does this conjure up images of Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and Texas creationist loonies? Or does one think of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, a coalition of over a dozen major Baptist organizations dedicated for many decades to church-state separation and the two century-plus Baptist history of support for separation?
Or "priest". Images of clericalism, opposition to birth control or abortion, lobbying for tax aid to church-run private schools, sexual abuse of minors etc.? Or maybe Robert Drinan (1920-2007), the Jesuit priest and five term Democratic congressman from Massachusetts who was key to blocking passage of a school prayer amendment in 1971? Drinan did not disagree with the Vatican's anti-abortion teaching but he was an outspoken opponent of anti-abortion legislation. Drinan played a key role in shaping the Democratic Party's pro-choice stance.
And then there are the "atheists" and alleged "humanists" (though few in numbers) who take the Vatican's and Religious Right's side in opposing freedom of choice on abortion, who support having government force all taxpayers support sectarian private schools (like atheist Milton Friedman), and whose actions often set back the cause of church-state separation and other humanistic goals.
Labels and stereotypes must not be allowed to stand in the way of broad cooperation among religiously disparate groups in pursuing generally humanistic goals.