Eminentoes

Abortion’s Holy Worker


Meet the religious leader of abortion of demand.

By 8.1.12

Send to Kindle

War is being waged, and it isn't overseas extremists, but rather Roman Catholic bishops who perpetrate the assault, according to the new head of a religious left group that fights for abortion on demand.

"We can't let religious bullies silence us," argues Harry Knox, the former head of the Episcopal Church's LGBT caucus, and now the new President of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC), formerly the Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights. Knox describes as "holy work" his efforts to counter a "war on women in the name of religion," a conflict "so vicious that it's hurting all of us."

RCRC's opponents, Knox assesses, want to "send women back to the dark ages" and "strip women of fundamental human rights."

"I've been called to lead a religious movement for reproductive justice," Knox summarized in a video introducing himself to RCRC supporters, which counts 15 Jewish, Unitarian Universalist, and liberal Mainline Protestant caucuses and church agencies among its affiliates.

Knox was announced as RCRC's new head during the United Methodist Church's governing General Conference in April-May, where a legislative committee, for the first time across 40 years, voted to withdraw church agencies from RCRC. A legislative logjam prevented the likely vote to quit RCRC, which United Methodist agencies helped found in 1973 in the wake of Roe versus Wade.

RCRC is best known for its past Chairman Katherine Ragsdale, an Episcopal clergywoman who infamously led chants that "abortion is a blessing" at a Birmingham abortion clinic. If Ragsdale was the "high priestess of abortion," as her detractors asserted, then Knox is abortion's gentle southern pastor, smiling and soothing that abortion is always a moral option.

Knox has solid Religious Left credentials, but heading RCRC completes a trifecta of same-sex marriage advocacy, Obama Administration Faith-based Advisory Council membership, and now opposing any restriction on abortion, including for the purposes of gender-selection.

Knox can point to Georgia Equality, Freedom to Marry, and the Religion and Faith Program of the homosexual advocacy group Human Rights Campaign (HRC) among the groups he has helped lead. In the latter position, Knox convened HRC's bi-annual "clergy call" to bring pro-LGBT pastors to Capitol Hill, where they lobbied in favor of gay and transgender policy changes.

"My life's work has been about equality," Knox recently explained, touting how he has gone up against "staunch opponents of human rights in the United States Congress and the Catholic hierarchy."

Knox began his tenure this month, completing his work as Interim Executive Director of Integrity USA, the unofficial LGBT caucus within the Episcopal Church, which recently enacted a policy of blessing same-sex unions.

As a pastor in the majority-gay Metropolitan Community Church (MCC), Knox led a Houston-area MCC congregation, and is also a former licensed United Methodist pastor.

After megachurch pastor Joel Osteen responded to prompting from CNN's Piers Morgan and revealed his belief that scripture regards homosexual practices as sinful, Knox went on-air to challenge his fellow Houston pastor.

"When people hear in church that God doesn't love homosexuals, it authorizes people who are hateful in their hearts or who are fearful in their hearts to go our sometime and to commit violence against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, particularly young people," Knox told a Houston TV reporter. That Osteen named homosexual practices as "outside of God's ideal" (and never said anything about God not loving homosexual persons) did not prevent Knox from seeking to smilingly tar-and-feather his fellow Houston area pastor.

Roman Catholics have frequently been a target of Knox, who claims the church sends a message that violence against homosexuals is acceptable. Knox once referred to the Knights of Columbus as "the foot soldiers in the discredited army of oppression." In February of 2010, Knox said the Pope's position against condom usage (lining up with a Harvard study that inconsistent condom use increased HIV transmission in Africa) was "hurting people in the name of Jesus." Following the comments, leaders of Catholic groups called upon President Obama to fire Knox from his faith advisory council.

Abortion, however, is Knox's new mainstay. While RCRC cites programs having to do with sex education and contraception, the group's origins -- and most of its activities -- closely orbit a fervent insistence that God wants abortion on demand.

"I believe that -- as a matter of social justice -- religious people should support the rights of women to make decisions about bearing children, including about abortion and birth control," Knox wrote in the Huffington Post this May. "In my view, it is sinful to turn away from women who are struggling to make the best decision for themselves, their families and perhaps their future children. There is nothing holy about silence in the face of human struggle and there is certainly nothing religious about shaming a woman who has an abortion."

Recently Knox implored: "I ask for your prayers and the prayers of all who care about women's health." He can be assured that many of his opponents are among those most fervently praying for him.

Like this Article

Print this Article

Print Article
About the Author

Jeff Walton directs the Anglican program at the Institute on Religion and Democracy in Washington, D.C.