Rev. Aaron R. Payson
Saturday, April 28, 2012
War on Women Rally
City Hall, Boston, MA
My name is Aaron Payson, son of Marcia, husband of Kristen, father of Morgaine and Charlie. I am also a minister to scores of women, men and their families at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Worcester and a member of the Board of Directors of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice in Washington, D.C.. I am here today to categorically proclaim that religion, reproductive freedom and economic justice are not an oxymoron. As a person of deep faith and a professional religious leader, I know that the decisions related to family planning and economic welfare are deeply sacred. I am here too because I have faith in women to know when and how and if they wish to bring children into this world. I believe we are here today to proclaim that very same message. It would seem, however, that “religion” has been synonymous with the voices of those who deny the moral authority of women; those who claim “life” as though it begins at conception and ends with birth; who pit the human family against itself by denying the full personhood of those already in existence and will continue to do so unless people of conscience and faith proclaim and demand a different vision of justice.
Today, my vision is that of Miriam, sister of Moses, who the Hebrew scriptures say was struck silent by the Divine for disobedience. What if we got it wrong? What if this was written by those in power in order to protect their power? What if, instead, as a number of women religious scholars like Rabbi Ruth Sohn of Los Angeles have suggested, she was silenced because she spoke for other women in her community, women like the Tzipporah, the Cushite wife of Moses. What if the efforts to demand the just treatment of women and families was part of a conspiracy to silence such voices by those in charge? Shall we follow the lead of those who seek to silence women? Shall we take as gospel the notion of feminine subservience? I implore you not to be silent! When those we elect to represent us in government and those we entrust with religious authority demand our silence, in order to enact laws and doctrines which treat women in this country and world as second-class citizens who are incapable of claiming the full power of their citizenship and discipleship, we shall not remain silent! When those in power refuse to admit the full humanity of women of every ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, and ability, we shall not remain silent! When those who govern us refuse to recognize the right of health care, including the right to contraceptive coverage, abortion and family planning services, we shall not remain silent! When those in the religious institutions strive to high-jack the term “life”, we shall not remain silent. When the those who claim religious exemptions from their civic duty to provide the full range of health care services to employees, students and their families, we shall not remain silent. When politicians bank on religion to protect their bias, bigotry and bad theology, we shall not remain silent, and we will vote! And I have a message for Speaker Boehner. . .we will not give you a break! The war on women is real. It was not concocted by political liberal but by your political allies. And the idea that we fund the status quo for student loan rates by defunding family planning services is morally indefensible!
Today, let us proclaim to those who seek our silence that we will shout from the roof-tops our demand for justice and reproductive freedom. For our mothers, our sisters, our wives and our daughters. For our fathers, brothers, and sons. We have a voice, we will use it. We will not be silent!