PHILADELPHIA (BP) — Talk of Hillary Clinton’s Methodist roots, an address by Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards and discussion of Clinton’s becoming the first female presidential nominee of a major U.S. political party were among the newsworthy events July 26 at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.
On the day delegates officially nominated Clinton, her husband, former President Bill Clinton, delivered a keynote address chronicling their life together and her record of public service, including its religious influences.
“Hillary got her introduction to social justice through her Methodist youth minister, Don Jones,” Bill Clinton said. “He took her downtown to Chicago to hear Martin Luther King Jr. speak, and he remained her friend for the rest of his life.”
In the realm of social justice, Bill Clinton said, his wife went on to help strip tax exemptions from segregated private academies in the South, serve children with disabilities, advocate legislation to promote adoption and stand for women’s rights as well as so-called homosexual and transgender rights.
The Democratic Party Platform adopted by delegates July 25 states, “We believe unequivocally … that every woman should have access to quality reproductive health care services, including safe and legal abortion — regardless of where she lives, how much money she makes, or how she is insured. We believe that reproductive health is core to women’s, men’s, and young people’s health and wellbeing.”
Richards, leader of America’s largest abortion provider, was also among Tuesday’s DNC speakers and said Planned Parenthood “trusts Hillary Clinton.”
“She will always stand up for Roe v. Wade,” Richards said, “and the right of every woman to access a full range of reproductive health care, including abortion, no matter her economic status.”
In contrast to Clinton, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and his running mate Mike Pence “say they’ll defund Planned Parenthood,” Richards said.
Trump also has “pledged to appoint justices who will overturn Roe v. Wade and undo decades of progress,” Richards said.
Bruce Ashford, a cultural commentator and provost at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, told Baptist Press he “can’t comment on Hillary Clinton’s spirituality” because he “can’t see her heart.” But he said of her Methodist affiliation, “I hope that her spirituality will help her recognize that freedom of choice ends where innocent human life begins,” a reference to Clinton’s support of abortion rights.
Ashford objected to Richards’ appearance as a DNC speaker and to the party platform’s statements on abortion. He referenced undercover videos released last year by the Center for Medical Progress showing Planned Parenthood executives discussing the sale of organs from aborted babies.
“After video revelations that PPFA is creatively recycling babies’ body parts after aborting them,” Ashford said, “it adds insult to injury to feature Cecile Richards on the DNC [speakers’] platform. The DNC needs to change their [party] platform so that they welcome unborn babies in life and protect them in law.”
A female president?
Hillary Clinton appeared at the end of the night’s program via live video to the sound of breaking glass and a collage of America’s 43 presidents, all of whom have been male, a reference to the metaphorical glass ceiling said to prevent women from rising to leadership positions in business, politics and other realms.
Although Barack Obama is known as the 44th president, Grover Cleveland is counted twice because he served two non-successive terms.
“I can’t believe we just put the biggest crack in that glass ceiling yet,” Clinton said of her nomination. “… If there are any little girls out there who stayed up late to watch, let me just say, I may become the first woman president, but one of you is next.”
First lady Michelle Obama struck a similar note in her address July 25, saying, “because of Hillary Clinton, my daughters — and all our sons and daughters — now take for granted that a woman can be president of the United States.”
In response to a potential Hillary Clinton presidency, The Washington Post quoted two Southern Baptist leaders in a July 20 article under the headline “God might not want a woman to be president, some religious conservatives say.”
Owen Strachan, immediate past president of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW), told The Post, “A good number of evangelicals would probably prefer to see men lead in the political arena, and I would be one of them. Many evangelicals would say that men need to be the ones who step up and take responsibility, not simply for the home and the church, but also for the community.”
There isn’t a specific Bible passage prohibiting a woman from becoming president, Strachan said, and ultimately, a female president is permissible as long as her role in the executive branch does not cause her to neglect her biblically assigned roles as a wife and mother.
The Post said evangelicals who express uneasiness about a female president cite Bible passages like Eve’s creation as Adam’s helper in Genesis 2 and the implication in Judges 4 that it was less than ideal for Deborah to lead Israel.
R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary told The Post most evangelicals care about candidates’ policies more than their gender. He added, “I think in general terms, there is a good reason why men tend to lead in these positions. I think embedded in creation is a natural tendency” toward male leadership.
Current CBMW President Denny Burk told BP there are differing opinions regarding a female president within the evangelical movement known as complementarianism — a position stipulating the fundamental equality of men and women as well as a distinction between their roles in the church and home.
“The Bible is clear that the differences between male and female are part of the goodness of God’s creation and that those differences have specific applications for leadership in the church and in the home,” Burk said in written comments. “The applications outside of home and church leadership are a little more inferential than explicit in Scripture.
“That is why you have evangelical complementarians on both sides of this question. Complementarians agree with one another at the principle level but then have different views on how the principle should be applied outside the two domains explicitly addressed in Scripture — the church and the home,” Burk said.