Church groups hold dueling news conferences on Amendment 1

Nashville-area faith leaders held dueling news conferences Tuesday on a proposed amendment to the state constitution dealing with abortion, reports The Tennessean.

Seventeen clergy members — both Christian and Jewish — gathered at the Metropolitan Interdenominational Church at noon to urge Tennesseans to vote no on Amendment 1. If enacted, the ballot initiative would amend the state constitution to give lawmakers more power to enact abortion regulations and restrictions.

“I stand here today in the power and love God gives me to say no to Amendment 1, to say I believe in a God who cares about our bodies, our decisions, and our lives, and who gives us the freedom to say no when our bodies, our decisions and our lives are under attack,” said The Rev. Claire McKeever-Burgett, a program interpretation manager for Upper Room Ministries in Nashville.

An interdenominational group of clergy in support of Amendment 1 gathered two hours later in a quickly organized rebuttal “when we heard other faith communities presumed to speak for the Nashville community,” said Jayme Hull, a member of the women’s ministry at Judson’s Baptist Church.

“Amendment 1 is about sensibility and balance,” said Frank Lewis, pastor at First Baptist Nashville, standing shoulder to should with Catholic priests and clergy representing other denominations that include the Presbyterian Church in America and Free Will Baptists. Lewis said passage of the amendment would give Tennessee citizens the power, through their elected leaders, to enact “common sense” abortion restrictions.

…Church leaders are barred from urging congregants to vote for or against a particular candidate, but religious organizations may take a position on a ballot measure.

On Tuesday, clergy on both sides of the issue cited Scripture and deeply held tenets of their faiths.

Passage of the amendment would impose “judgment, shame and political interference (that) violates the Golden Rule, plain and simple,” said Rabbi Laurie Rice, co-rabbi at Congregation Micah in Brentwood, who called the effort to pass the measure an imposition of one faith’s beliefs over others.

“There are certain issues that are so clear-cut, in terms of who we are,” said Henry Coles Jr., senior pastor at Faith Life Church in Antioch, who spoke in favor of Amendment 1. We need to be protective of the life of the unborn. … If we do not articulate an injustice, then we are dong a disservice to our community.”