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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, March 23, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 12
Jimmy Carter endorses marriage equality
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Jimmy Carter endorses marriage equality

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Former president Jimmy Carter endorsed marriage equality in a March 20 interview with the Huffington Post.

Carter has been on tour promoting his new Bible study book, NIV Lessons From Life Bible: Personal Reflections with Jimmy Carter.

One of the issues that came up in the interview was same-sex marriage, and Carter came down unequivocally on the side of equality.

'Homosexuality was well-known in the ancient world, well before Christ was born and Jesus never said a word about homosexuality. In all of his teachings about multiple things - he never said that Gay people should be condemned,' Carter said.

'I personally think it is very fine for Gay people to be married in civil ceremonies. I draw the line, maybe arbitrarily, in requiring by law that churches must marry people.

'I'm a Baptist, and I believe that each congregation is autonomous and can govern its own affairs. So if a local Baptist church wants to accept Gay members on an equal basis - which my church does, by the way - then that is fine. If a church decides not to, then government laws shouldn't require them to.'

It was not the first time Carter has spoken out in support of LGBT rights. In a December 2010 interview, he said he saw no obstacle to electing a Gay president.

'I would say that the country is getting acclimated to a president who might be female, who might obviously, now be black and who might be as well, a Gay person,' Carter told Bigthink.com in 2010.

'Because step-by-step we have realized that this issue of homosexuality has the same adverse and progressive elements as when we dealt with the race issue 50 years ago & or 40 years ago.'

Although Carter still identifies as a Baptist, he publicly split with the Southern Baptist Convention - the largest and most conservative Baptist group - in 2000.

In a letter he sent to 75,000 Baptists nationwide, Carter said he found the SBC becoming increasingly 'rigid.' In particular, he said, he believed SBC leaders were distorting scripture to minimize the role and rights of Baptist women.

'I'm familiar with the verses they have quoted about wives being subjugated to their husbands,' he said.

'In my opinion, this is a distortion of the meaning of Scripture. ... I personally feel the Bible says all people are equal in the eyes of God. I personally feel that women should play an absolutely equal role in service of Christ in the church.'

He added that he and his wife Rosalynn would associate with Baptist groups 'who share such beliefs as separation of church and state ... a free religious press, and equality of women.'

Both the Carters and their church in Plains, Georgia, are now affiliated with the Atlanta-based Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, a more liberal Baptist organization.

Carter previously clashed with the SBC in 1997, when SBC leaders said that Mormons were not Christians, an issue that has come to the fore again as Mormon Mitt Romney runs for the Republican presidential nomination.

'Too many leaders now, I think, in the Southern Baptist Convention and in other conventions, are trying to act as the Pharisees did, who were condemned by Christ, in trying to define who can and who cannot be considered an acceptable person in the eyes of God,' Carter said then.

'In other words, they're making judgments on behalf of God. I think that's wrong & the people in my own local church have no interest in trying to condemn Mormons or trying to convert Mormons to be good old Baptists like me.'

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