You've heard of the Religious Right, that corps of mostly Christian activists who say the Bible compels them to seek bans on same-sex marriage and abortion.
But did you know there’s a Religious Left? And its profile is on the rise – thanks, in large part, to what’s happening in North Carolina.
The most obvious example is Moral Mondays, those interfaith protests in Raleigh. They’ve become a model for left-leaning clergy around the country who say the Bible compels them to oppose legislation that targets the poor, minorities and gays and lesbians.
Also getting national attention: A group of Charlotte-area religious leaders who recently helped launch the first faith-based court challenge to bans on same-sex marriage. Their lawsuit claimed those prohibitions keep them from practicing their religion by denying them the right to marry certain members of their flock – same-sex couples – in their churches and synagogues.
The Religious Right has always considered North Carolina fertile ground. And its leaders include Republican-friendly North Carolinians, most notably Franklin Graham.
Now the national Religious Left is looking to the state for leadership. At the head of that Democratic-friendly line is the Rev. William Barber, who leads the state NAACP and is chief architect of Moral Mondays.
But in Charlotte, three members of the clergy – all women – have also emerged as grassroots leaders of the Religious Left:
- The Rev. Nancy Allison, pastor of Holy Covenant United Church of Christ, is one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
- The Rev. Robin Tanner, pastor of Piedmont Unitarian Universalist Church, was among ministers willfully arrested during Moral Mondays.
- And Rabbi Judy Schindler of Temple Beth El has spearheaded two trips to Washington, with Allison and Tanner, to marry gays and lesbian couples from Charlotte.
On May 3, they officiated at the weddings of six same-sex couples who’d been together for a combined total of 100 years.
All three clergywomen are members of denominations that have long taken the lead on progressive causes. The United Church of Christ, which is also a plaintiff in the same-sex lawsuit, ordained its first gay minister in 1972. The Reform movement in Judaism ordained the first American woman rabbi. And for more than a century, Unitarian Universalism has been a magnet for liberal activists, including two civil rights workers murdered by white supremacists in the 1960s.
“What you’re seeing now is the fruit of many years of labor,” Allison said.
Added Schindler: “I’m thankful our voices are being heard. We feel a call to share our passion for social justice and equality.”
PHOTO: (L to R) Allison, Tanner and Schindler
-- Tim Funk