What the Bible Tells Us About Sarah Palin’s Future

Lynda Waddington

GOP faithful have been debating whether the party should move to the proverbial political center or embrace the conservatism of Gov. Sarah Palin. What has gone unnoticed is that support for Palin is a repudiation of the Bible.

Since the Republican Party suffered widespread defeat on Election
Day, the GOP faithful have been debating whether the party should move
to the proverbial political center or embrace the conservatism of
Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. What has gone unnoticed is that support for
Palin is a repudiation of the Bible.

Palin, while lauded as a draw for conservative evangelical voters,
actually fits uneasily into the theological worldview of the Christian
Right. To be sure, Palin’s politics are a close, if not exact match for
social conservatives. She is strongly against a woman’s right to choose
abortion, even in cases of rape and incest. She is against same-sex
marriage and for an expansive reading of the Second Amendment. She is a
perfect candidate — so long as evangelicals are able to look past her

But supporting Palin’s vice-presidential bid — and her possible
ambitions for 2012 — requires evangelical voters to overlook the
“complementarian” conception of the roles of men and women that holds
sway among Southern Baptists and other evangelicals. Based on their
reading of Scripture, they believe that men and women have distinctly
different roles assigned to them by God. Women, in this perspective,
are divinely mandated to serve as wives, mothers and keepers of the
home. They are not allowed to serve as pastors, and they are obliged to
submit to their husband in their own homes and in public.

The power of the belief that women are not eligible to lead came
crashing into religious living rooms in September when more than 100
Christian bookstores, run by the Southern Baptist Convention, refused to publicly display
an edition of Gospel Today magazine that featured five female pastors
on the cover. The magazine had to be withdrawn from public display,
said a spokesman, because the story “clearly advocates a position
contrary to our denomination’s statement of faith.” Christians could
only get the magazine by asking for it from behind the counter, a la
Penthouse or Playboy.

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How could it be that a female in the White House was acceptable at the same time that females at the pulpit posed a problem?

Albert Mohler, president of the Baptist Convention, offered an
answer on his blog: Scripture is vague on the question of whether women
can have public responsibilities and besides, Palin has fulfilled her
wifely and motherly duties, he argued.

“The New Testament clearly speaks to the complementary
roles of men and women in the home and in the church,” he wrote, “but
not in roles of public responsibility. I believe that women as CEOs in
the business world and as officials in government are no affront to
Scripture. Then again, that presupposes that women — and men — have
first fulfilled their responsibilities within the little commonwealth
of the family.”

The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood argued that:

The Bible calls women to specific roles in the church
and home, but does not prohibit them from exercising leadership in
secular political fields. Rather, the Queen of Sheba is presented in 1 Kings 10:1-13
in a positive light in her interaction with King Solomon. Queen Esther
offers an even better example of a woman who appropriately exerted
influence for the good of her people without holding the highest
position of national authority (Esther 2:17). 
In this light, we cannot categorically say that it was sinful for Queen
Victoria to lead England as a single woman strictly because of her
gender, nor can we condemn Governor Palin or any other woman for
seeking the office of Vice President.

But, as any reader of the Bible knows, these are selective readings.
Mohler and the council ignore politically inconvenient passages from
the books of Exodus and Deuteronomy that make clear that men, not
women, should rule.

“Moreover thou shalt provide out of all the people able
men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place
such over them, to be rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds,
rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens.” ~ Exodux 18:21

“Take you wise men, and understanding, and known among your tribes, and I will make them rulers over you.” ~Dueteronomy 1:13

In the the book of Timothy in the New Testament,  a woman’s path in life is outlined as follows:

“I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up
holy hands, without wrath and doubting. In like manner also, that women
adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety;
not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array;

The charitable Christian will leave aside the implications of this
injunction for Palin’s notorious  $150,000 clothes shopping spree, and
ask how biblical fundamentalists can accept Timothy’s teachings and
still celebrate a female politician skilled in forthright rhetoric.

Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But
I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but
to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not
deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.
Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in
faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.” ~ 1 Timothy 2:8-15

The answer is: Not very easily.

For those who believe that there is an all-encompassing plan by God
as delivered in the Scripture, the complementarian view is fundamental.
The belief in specific gender roles with men being in leadership
positions over women cannot be separated from the order that the Bible
says God created:

“But I would have you know, that the head of every man
is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ
is God.” ~ I Corinthians 11:3

Yet many evangelicals, excited by the worldview expressed by Palin,
twist the otherwise inflexible words of the Bible to justify their
political passion.

Not all have managed to make the leap.

“Those of us who seek a biblical reformation of the family and the
defeat of feminism’s vision for women look at the matter in a very
different light,” said Pennsylvania pastor William Einwechter, who
wrote of the “Feminization of the Family” in 2005.

“Sarah Palin identifies herself with the anti-Christian
philosophy of feminism. She uses feminist terminology, identifies with
feminist political objectives, publicly praises liberal icons of the
feminist movement, and has built her lifestyle around the feminist
ideal of motherhood and careerism. … She establishes the feminist
principle that if a woman can do something, and she wants to do it, she
ought to do it; there should be no constraints placed on her by her
family, her church, or her society. She validates the feminist notion
that it is fine for a mother to leave the care and training of her
children in the hands of others while she seeks her own version of
success in the world. Sarah Palin has brought to light the degree to
which feminist ideology has triumphed in American culture and in the
American church.”

Even on the religious right.

News Human Rights

What’s Driving Women’s Skyrocketing Incarceration Rates?

Michelle D. Anderson

Eighty-two percent of the women in jails nationwide find themselves there for nonviolent offenses, including property, drug, and public order offenses.

Local court and law enforcement systems in small counties throughout the United States are increasingly using jails to warehouse underserved Black and Latina women.

The Vera Institute of Justice, a national policy and research organization, and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge initiative, released a study last week showing that the number of women in jails based in communities with 250,000 residents or fewer in 2014 had grown 31-fold since 1970, when most county jails lacked a single woman resident.

By comparison, the number of women in jails nationwide had jumped 14-fold since 1970. Historically, jails were designed to hold people not yet convicted of a crime or people serving terms of one year or less, but they are increasingly housing poor women who can’t afford bail.

Eighty-two percent of the women in jails nationwide find themselves there for nonviolent offenses, including property, drug, and public order offenses.

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Overlooked: Women and Jails in an Era of Reform,” calls attention to jail incarceration rates for women in small counties, where rates increased from 79 per 100,000 women to 140 per 100,000 women, compared to large counties, where rates dropped from 76 to 71 per 100,000 women.

The near 50-page report further highlights that families of color, who are already disproportionately affected by economic injustice, poor access to health care, and lack of access to affordable housing, were most negatively affected by the epidemic.

An overwhelming percentage of women in jail, the study showed, were more likely to be survivors of violence and trauma, and have alarming rates of mental illness and substance use problems.

“Overlooked” concluded that jails should be used a last resort to manage women deemed dangerous to others or considered a flight risk.

Elizabeth Swavola, a co-author of “Overlooked” and a senior program associate at the Vera Institute, told Rewire that smaller regions tend to lack resources to address underlying societal factors that often lead women into the jail system.

County officials often draft budgets mainly dedicated to running local jails and law enforcement and can’t or don’t allocate funds for behavioral, employment, and educational programs that could strengthen underserved women and their families.

“Smaller counties become dependent on the jail to deal with the issues,” Swavola said, adding that current trends among women deserves far more inquiry than it has received.

Fred Patrick, director of the Center on Sentencing and Corrections at the Vera Institute, said in “Overlooked” that the study underscored the need for more data that could contribute to “evidence-based analysis and policymaking.”

“Overlooked” relies on several studies and reports, including a previous Vera Institute study on jail misuse, FBI statistics, and Rewire’s investigation on incarcerated women, which examined addiction, parental rights, and reproductive issues.

“Overlooked” authors highlight the “unique” challenges and disadvantages women face in jails.

Women-specific issues include strained access to menstrual hygiene products, abortion care, and contraceptive care, postpartum separation, and shackling, which can harm the pregnant person and fetus by applying “dangerous levels of pressure, and restriction of circulation and fetal movement.”

And while women are more likely to fare better in pre-trail proceedings and receive low bail amounts, the study authors said they are more likely to leave the jail system in worse condition because they are more economically disadvantaged.

The report noted that 60 percent of women housed in jails lacked full-time employment prior to their arrest compared to 40 percent of men. Nearly half of all single Black and Latina women have zero or negative net wealth, “Overlooked” authors said.

This means that costs associated with their arrest and release—such as nonrefundable fees charged by bail bond companies and electronic monitoring fees incurred by women released on pretrial supervision—coupled with cash bail, can devastate women and their families, trapping them in jail or even leading them back to correctional institutions following their release.

For example, the authors noted that 36 percent of women detained in a pretrial unit in Massachusetts in 2012 were there because they could not afford bail amounts of less than $500.

The “Overlooked” report highlighted that women in jails are more likely to be mothers, usually leading single-parent households and ultimately facing serious threats to their parental rights.

“That stress affects the entire family and community,” Swavola said.

Citing a Corrections Today study focused on Cook County, Illinois, the authors said incarcerated women with children in foster care were less likely to be reunited with their children than non-incarcerated women with children in foster care.

The sexual abuse and mental health issues faced by women in jails often contribute to further trauma, the authors noted, because women are subjected to body searches and supervision from male prison employees.

“Their experience hurts their prospects of recovering from that,” Swavola said.

And the way survivors might respond to perceived sexual threats—by fighting or attempting to escape—can lead to punishment, especially when jail leaders cannot detect or properly respond to trauma, Swavola and her peers said.

The authors recommend jurisdictions develop gender-responsive policies and other solutions that can help keep women out of jails.

In New York City, police take people arrested for certain non-felony offenses to a precinct, where they receive a desk appearance ticket, or DAT, along with instructions “to appear in court at a later date rather than remaining in custody.”

Andrea James, founder of Families for Justice As Healing and a leader within the National Council For Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls, said in an interview with Rewire that solutions must go beyond allowing women to escape police custody and return home to communities that are often fragmented, unhealthy, and dangerous.

Underserved women, James said, need access to healing, transformative environments. She cited as an example the Brookview House, which helps women overcome addiction, untreated trauma, and homelessness.

James, who has advocated against the criminalization of drug use and prostitution, as well as the injustices faced by those in poverty, said the problem of jail misuse could benefit from the insight of real experts on the issue: women and girls who have been incarcerated.

These women and youth, she said, could help researchers better understand the “experiences that brought them to the bunk.”

Analysis Law and Policy

Federal Court Says Trans Worker Can Be Fired Based on Owner’s Religious Beliefs

Jessica Mason Pieklo

“Plain and simple, this is just discrimination against a person because of who she is,” said John Knight, the director of the LGBT and HIV Project of the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, in an interview with Rewire.

When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2014 in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby that the owners of secular for-profit businesses could challenge laws they believed infringed on their religious liberties, civil rights advocates warned that the decision was just the start of a new wave of litigation. On Thursday, those predictions came true: A federal district judge in Michigan ruled that a funeral home owner could fire a transgender worker simply for being transgender.

The language of the opinion is sweeping, even if the immediate effect of the decision is limited to the worker, Aimee Stephens, and her boss. And that has some court-watchers concerned.

“Plain and simple, this is just discrimination against a person because of who she is,” said John Knight, the director of the LGBT and HIV Project of the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, in an interview with Rewire.

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According to court documents, Stephens, an employee at Detroit’s R.G. & G.R. Funeral Homes, gave her boss—the business’ owner—a letter in 2013 explaining she was undergoing a gender transition. As part of her transition, she told her employer that she would soon start to present as a woman, including dressing in appropriate business attire at work that was consistent both with her identity and the company’s sex-segregated dress code policy.

Two weeks later, Stephens was fired after being told by her boss that what she was “proposing to do” was unacceptable and offensive to his religious beliefs.

In September 2014, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a lawsuit on behalf of Stephens, arguing the funeral home had violated Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act, which prohibits employment discrimination. According to the EEOC, Stephens was unlawfully fired in violation of Title VII “because she is transgender, because she was transitioning from male to female, and/or because she did not conform to the employer’s gender-based expectations, preferences, or stereotypes.”

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act allows those employees who have been discriminated against in the workplace to collect money, known as civil damages. Those damages usually come in the form of lost wages, back pay, and funds to make up for—to some degree—the abuse the employee faced on the job. They are also designed to make employers more vigilant about their workplace culture. Losing an employment discrimination case for an employer can be expensive.

But attorneys representing Stephens’ employer argued that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) protected their client from legal liability for firing Stephens. On Thursday, a federal court agreed. It said that paying such damages for unlawfully discriminating against an employee could amount to a substantial burden on an employer’s religious beliefs. 

According to the court, despite the fact that Stephens’ boss admitted he fired her for transitioning, and despite the fact that the court found this admission to be direct evidence of employment discrimination, RFRA can be a defense against that direct discrimination. To use that defense, the court concluded, all the funeral home owner had to do was assert that his religious beliefs embraced LGBTQ discrimination. The funeral home had “met its initial burden of showing that enforcement of Title VII, and the body of sex-stereotyping case law that has developed under it, would impose a substantial burden on its ability to conduct business in accordance with its sincerely-held religious beliefs,” the court wrote.

In other words, Hobby Lobby provides employers a defense to discriminating against LGBTQ people on the basis of religious beliefs.

“The RFRA analysis is extremely troubling, and the implications of it [are] as well,” said Knight. “I believe this is the first case applying RFRA to a Title VII claim with respect to nonministerial employees.”

If the scope of the opinion were broader, Knight continued, “this would allow [employers in general] to evade and refuse to comply with uniform nondiscrimination law because of their religious views.”

This, Knight said, is what advocates were afraid of in the wake of Hobby Lobby: “It is the concern raised by all of the liberal justices in the dissent in Hobby Lobby, and it is what the majority in Hobby Lobby said the decision did not mean. [That majority] said it did not mean the end of enforcement of nondiscrimination laws.”

And yet that is exactly what we are seeing in this decision, Knight said.

According to court documents, Stephens’ boss has been a Christian for more than 65 years and testified that he believes “the Bible teaches that God creates people male or female,” that “the Bible teaches that a person’s sex is an immutable God-given gift, and that people should not deny or attempt to change their sex.” For Stephens’ former boss, Stephens’ transition to a woman was “denying” her sex. Stephens had to be fired, her boss testified, so that he would not be directly complicit in supporting the idea that “sex is a changeable social construct rather than an immutable God-given gift.”

If the “complicit in denying God’s will” sounds familiar, it should. It has been the exact argument used by businesses challenging the birth control benefit of the Affordable Care Act. Those business owners believe contraception is contrary to God’s will and that complying with federal law, which says birth control should be treated in insurance policies as any other preventive service, makes them complicit in sin. Thursday’s decision cites Hobby Lobby directly to support the court’s conclusion that complying with federal nondiscrimination law can be avoided by asserting a religious objection.

Think of the implications, should other courts follow this lead. Conservatives have, in the past, launched religious objections to child labor laws, the minimum wage, interracial marriage, and renting housing to single parents—to name a few. Those early legal challenges were unsuccessful, in part because they were based on constitutional claims. Hobby Lobby changed all that, opening the door for religious conservatives to launch all kinds of protests against laws they disagree with.

And though the complaint may be framed as religious objections to birth control, to LGBTQ people generally, and whatever other social issue that rankles conservatives, these cases are so much more than that. They are about corporate interests trying to evade regulations that both advance social equity and punish financially those businesses that refuse to follow the law. Thursday’s opinion represents the next, troubling evolution of that litigation.

CORRECTION: This article has been updated to clarify John Knight’s position with the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois.


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