Living in Society Social Commentary

Jimmy Carter and Prejudice Against Women

Jimmy Carter at the Iowa State Fair, August 1976 – Photo Credit – Des Moines Register

On Jan. 19, 1976, the day of the Iowa precinct caucuses that started Jimmy Carter on a path from relative obscurity to becoming the Democratic nominee for president, I was in U.S. Army Basic Training at Fort Jackson, S.C.

I didn’t really care who became president because anyone would be better than Richard Nixon.

As we now know, “Uncommitted” won the presidential preference that year getting 37 percent of the delegates with Carter coming in second with 28 percent. He became president and served for a single term from 1977 until 1981.

On July 19 Carter announced he was losing his religion. “Women and girls have been discriminated against for too long in a twisted interpretation of the word of God,” he said.

After six decades in the Southern Baptist Convention, at the point when leadership determined that women must be subservient to men, he decided to leave.

“At its most repugnant, the belief that women must be subjugated to the wishes of men excuses slavery, violence, forced prostitution, genital mutilation and national laws that omit rape as a crime,” Carter wrote. “But it also costs many millions of girls and women control over their own bodies and lives, and continues to deny them fair access to education, health, employment and influence within their own communities.”

The view that women are somehow inferior to men is not restricted to one religion or belief, he said.

Read Carter’s entire article in The Age here. What is the context for Carter losing his religion?

Earlier in July and before Carter’s letter, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced creation of the Commission on Unalienable Rights to examine the role of human rights in US foreign policy. It is expected the commission will be a vehicle to roll back protection of human rights in US diplomacy.

“What does it mean to say or claim that something is, in fact, a human right,” Pompeo said at the State Department according to CNN. “How do we know or how do we determine whether that claim that this or that is a human right, is it true, and therefore, ought it to be honored?”

“Words like ‘rights’ can be used for good or evil,” he said.

What is or isn’t a human right has been debated even though the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted in 1948 by the United Nations. One can assume the same impetus that led Pompeo to embrace the Rapture is at work in this commission. I expect a new attack on women’s rights driven by the same prejudices Carter discusses in his letter.

At 94 years, Jimmy Carter continues to serve our nation and a global community. If there is justice God will forgive him for losing his religion to continue his efforts in pursuit of women’s rights.

~ Written for Blog for Iowa