Women Should Reject Overtures From Religious Right, Says Americans United In New Report

American women should reject recent overtures by the Christian Coalition and other Religious Right groups because their agenda is out of sync with women's basic rights, says Americans United for Separation of Church and State in a new report.

The AU report, titled "Curious Courtship: Why The Christian Coalition Is Wooing Women -- And Why Women Should Just Say No," was released today in advance of a Christian Coalition national conference aimed at women. The Coalition's March 3-4 event in Arlington, Va. -- "Women Changing America" -- is described as "exclusively for women...who are concerned about America's moral climate and are ready to become involved in making a difference in America's future."

In the report, Americans United charges that the Christian Coalition conference is little more than an attempt to draft women into partisan politics and close the so-called "gender gap," which contributed to the defeat of Republican presidential candidates in 1992 and 1996.

"The Religious Right has a basic contempt for the progress women have made over the past century," says Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. "Its policies, if adopted, would return women to a time when their choices were limited and many of their decisions were made by someone else. There is simply no way you can call an agenda like that 'pro-women.'"

The Christian Coalition and other Religious Right groups, the AU report charges, constantly work against women's interests. Highlights of the document include:

* Examples of Christian Coalition President Pat Robertson's anti-women rhetoric. These include his repeated claims that the Bible mandates that wives submit to their husbands and his observation that women lack the same mental ability as men because they aren't as good at playing chess.

* Examples of the Christian Coalition's attacks on reproductive freedom.  Among these are Robertson's extreme rhetoric attacking legal abortion, the Coalition's efforts to block access to abortion and Robertson's recent salvos against birth control. 

* An explanation of how the Coalition's views conflict with what women want. The report notes that national polls show women supporting strong public schools--a stand the Coalition does not share and actively works to undermine through its advocacy of voucher aid to religious schools. It also points out that other items of concern to women, such as access to quality, affordable child care and health care, are actively opposed by the Coalition.

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.