It is sound advice we have all heard from parents, professors, and pastors. It's the kind of advice we give to our children. Our associations with others have influence on our own behaviors and character. Our associations affect the perception others have of us. Those friendships may assign value to us or de-value us in the eyes of others.
Take, for example, the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC) and their recent amicus brief presented to the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in the Stormans, Inc. (Ralph's Thriftway) v. Selecky (Washington State Department of Health) case. RCRC wants the court to reverse a lower court ruling that affirmed the right of a pharmacist to refuse to fill a prescription (i.e. abortifacient drugs or "morning after pill") based on their religious convictions (e.g. that life in the womb is precious to God). The court's action rightly protected the religious freedom of the individual pharmacist. It was a fair and right judgment upholding the individual's freedom of religion established in our constitution.
That's not the way RCRC sees it. Their organization was founded in 1973 "to safeguard the newly won right to abortion". They do this, according to their mission statement, by bringing "the moral power of religious communities to ensure reproductive choice through education and advocacy." One of the ways they do this is by promoting the faulty concept that abortion is an expression of a woman's faith. Choose your friends carefully! Do we really want to be associated with an organization that sees the chemical execution of a child in the womb of its mother as a religious practice that ought to be protected? Sounds a little like human sacrifice to me.
One might argue that religious freedom is rightfully limited when the life of another human being is threatened by its practice. RCRC tries to use that very argument to say that a pharmacist has no right to refuse participation in a chemical abortion on religious grounds, because doing so would impinge on the woman's "religious freedom regarding personal health care." (Amicus Brief, p. 11) At the risk of sounding like an anti-abortionist activist: "Abortion is NOT health care!" Abortion ends the life of the child and endangers the woman's long-term emotional and physical health. Where is the health, or the care, in that?
There is some hope that we are learning something in the PC(USA) about such friends.
On a positive note, the three entities of the PCUSA who hold memberships in RCRC (Washington Office, Women's Ministries, and Presbyterians Affirming Reproductive Options) DID NOT SIGN this amicus brief. I am grateful for that. It gives me hope that my denomination is gaining respect for my conscience and convictions as a pro-life Presbyterian. In fact, only one Presbyterian Pastor's name appears--Reverend Mary Robinson-Mohr, St. James Presbyterian Church, Bellingham, Washington-whose name is included with a number of Washington State Clergy and two Planned Parenthood chaplains. The list is posted on the RCRC website.
Still the PC(USA) name does not totally escape association with the weak and faulty arguments presented by RCRC in this amicus brief. "Women's Ministries of the Presbyterian Church (USA)" is listed on page 11 as one of the organizations that believes persons ought to be free to "exercise their moral agency and religious freedom when receiving health care." The statement alone is not a bad statement. In this context of defending abortion as a 'religious freedom,' however, the association is dreadful. Choose your friends carefully!
The "Presbyterian Church" name is used again on page 13 as one of several denominations that support "'full and equal access' to health care consistent with a woman's decisions." The footnote references the 1992 Report of the Special Committee on Problem Pregnancies and Abortion. The actual wording in the 1992 report [p. 13, (6) b.] is "full and equal access to contraceptive methods" (underline mine). Contraceptive methods which prevent fertilization of the egg by the sperm differ fundamentally from abortifacient methods such as the "morning after pill", which end the life of a fertilized embryo---a genetically complete individual.
Choose your friends carefully. Others will judge you by their words as well as your own. Perhaps even more disturbing is RCRC's youth initiative SYRF (Spiritual Youth for Reproductive Freedom). For example, would you want your teenager to have a friend who encouraged him or her with this message found on the SYRF website?
Learn more about how to put your faith into action
on campus, in your community, and your congregation.
Make birth control pills affordable!
I would rather see our youth in a friendship with Tony Perkins of Family Research Council who wrote this week in an email newsletter article, "Condom Culture".
"It continues to astound me that our society is willing to tell kids to abstain from the dangers of drinking or smoking but not premarital sex. If America is truly committed to disease prevention, and the emotional well-being of our teens, then we must be committed to abstinence--the only method that works 100% of the time."
Sadly, Perkins is right. Society failing our youth, but too often, so is the church. What message is the PC(USA) sending to our youth through our association with "friends" such as RCRC and SYRF?
Choose your friends carefully. The PC(USA) has some embarrassing friends. Maybe it's time to change friends!
Related articles: Our association with RCRC compounds our disunity on abortion, by Marie Bowen
Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice's Support for Partial Birth Abortion "Confused, at Best," by Fr. Frank Pavone