Reclaiming my Voice

Reclaiming my Voice
By Catherine Rosso
I was born to a  pastor and his wife in 1985 in Central New York. My father stated his church was non-denominational but also had Pentecostal roots. My parents met in the Bible School they taught in together and were engaged their 2nd date, which they felt was planned and set up by the Holy Spirit. My perception of their beginnings as a couple, is that they were two lonely people with big ideas and plans on how God was going to use their lives to change “the nations”, as they called it. They believed they had a “calling” on their lives and being married was part of that calling. I don’t feel sexual attraction or chemistry had much to do with their decision to marry each other.

Being the child of this specific father and mother meant that church attendance on Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings was not an option. I attended a baptist school from grades K-12. We had to do family devotions, church activities, and were only allowed to have christian friends. Other parents praise their children after they make a painting, win a game, or tie their shoes, we were affirmed any time we spoke in tongues, raised our hands in worship, or kneeled at the alter. My father was very emotional and an easily-tempered man. My father was the true idea of a traditional and insecure man who could only see things black and white. A real woman was submissive and meek and enslaved. If you were not this, than you were less of a woman and not appealing to a man, which I was told many times. I was told “no man will ever want you if don’t change”. Our dinner times were accompanied by my father lecturing and criticizing my mother, if I interrupted or responded to this he would speedily come over to my side of the table and slap me across my arms and body. We were given a list of interests we were allowed to be interested in and sex was not on the list. Everything was handled with aggression, verbal abuse, and hitting. My voice was taken away, and with it my right to be curious about things and feel new things.

My mom was very un-intune to herself and others emotionally. Her activities in the church and home defined her. If she wasn’t doing, she was nothing. Anything overly emotional or confrontational was corrected or disapproved of and the conversation was changed quickly by her. She taught me that my body was a secret to be kept from boys who want it but who can’t have it until they sign a legal document saying we are married, which to my mom meant that a man and I were bonded for life. Talking about sex casually, reading about sex, watching sex, thinking about sex, and feeling sexual was not permitted and would be punished. My mom’s big sex talk was mostly about my period. I was thirteen and we talked in my room. I was told that once a month I would menstruate and need to wear pads but the most important thing was I could never tell a boy if I started my period or when I was having a period. I was given a gold necklace with a key on it to remind me to wait for marriage. I had to watch, in youth group, these Christian videos on abstinence and all the consequences of having sex before marriage. If you were unmarried and had sex, you got STDs and got pregnant and no man would ever love you again because you weren’t a virgin, and if you waited for marriage everything would be about love, happiness, gummy bears and unicorns.

My school had a dress code. We were told the reason for the dress code was so that we wouldn't cause our brothers in the Lord to fall into sin. There was no Sex Ed, that was the parents’ job. The biggest thing I learned from my parents and my school about  sex is that men feel and desire everything and women feel and desire nothing. I was taught that men have no ability to control themselves and have no hope without Jesus and that women must keep everything covered, closed, hidden, suppressed, and quiet and that if we were not the type of woman that could do these things then we would never be loved by a man.

After a long journey I am now at a place where I believe our sexuality is beyond complex, wild, and is gorgeous and is supposed to be. Just like a rugged mountain or a vibrant sunset, our sexuality should manifest itself in it’s most natural form. The root of what hides us and limits us is a fear of being truthful, mostly to ourselves. To be truthful to ourselves requires an ownership of all that we feel and perceive and not relying on our past or our environment to dictate who we are. I believe that education on protection and respecting others is very important, however I do not think that a system can create a “one size fits all” curriculum on sex and succeed in the long run. When it comes to education, I promote an educational structure that is set up for the student to critically think, reflect, and come up with conclusions on their own. When it comes to something like sexuality, the question “why” needs to be looked at as much as the “how”. Why do I feel this way? Why do I want to respect a woman’s refusal to have sex? Why do I want to do my best to prevent getting pregnant right now? I also feel that an introduction to the topic of sex should be presented in a way that teaches a student to celebrate, to explore, and makes them feel good about their journey, rather than making them feel like a science project or a time-bomb about to go off or a piece of machinery that needs to be handled properly, using the pamphlets and books given. Our sexuality is not a new toy or device that we need to be taught how to use properly. We are meant to be our natural selves, which means less steering and more reinforcing the positive that is already apparent, more student-centered. After all, nothing is more real to a person than what they discover on their own.

About the Author:
I wanted to write about sexual education and my background due to the fact I have a great interest in human sexuality and I want to encourage others to break away from their preconceived ideas of themselves or others that were given to them by their backgrounds, families, or religions. I want to encourage others to empower themselves with knowledge and not depend on what they grew up with to understand themselves and sex.  I attend my local Unitarian Universalist Congregation, and I plan on homeschooling my daughter, so I am part of the homeschooling community in my area. Additionally, I have started a group for alternative and nontraditional families and I am a stay-at-home mom.


Like Voldemort To Wizards: How Christian Homeschooling Made Me A Sex Ed Advocate

Like Voldemort To Wizards: How Christian Homeschooling Made Me A Sex Ed Advocate
By R.L. Stollar, co-founder of Homeschoolers Anonymous

I learned about sex because of a Boy Scout merit badge.

My older brother and I were on the way to a Boy Scouts meeting. My dad was nervous the whole time, seeming to stall until the last moment. I am not sure if this conversation would have ever happened naturally. But it did happen, if it only happened because it had to.

My brother and I were working to get our Family Life merit badge in Boy Scouts. Part of earning that badge was learning about sex. Someone had to give us "The Talk," and — since our Boy Scout troop was a primarily Christian homeschool troop — that responsibility fell on our father. To learn about sex from anyone other than one's parents was a cardinal sin in my Christian homeschool culture.

Most of the drive was awkward, because we knew we were about to get The Talk. I do not think The Talk necessarily has to be awkward, but it was for our dad. You could feel it in the air. As a result, The Talk really materialized on the 15-minute drive. Never, that is, until we pulled into the parking lot of the rundown Baptist church where our troop met. Then it was do or die time, and my dad gave us a quick summary of lovemarriagepenisvaginababy. Boom.

That was the extent of my Christian homeschool sex education growing up. It lasted less than five minutes.

I grew up in an almost alternate universe, where courtship methods of the Victorian era were popular and no one spoke of sex except in hushed or negative tones. Sex to Christian homeschoolers was like Voldemort to wizards — That Which Shall Not Be Named. I attended "purity" seminars at which homeschool celebrities like Josh Harris, author of I Kissed Dating Goodbye, urged audiences of horny teenagers to focus on God and flee that nebulous human demon called Lust.

In that universe, "abstinence only" was not an abstract concept but a concrete reality. I never learned about condoms, or how to use them. I never learned about STDs. As a male, I never learned about menstruation. That was a taboo topic; my parents referred to it as "that time of month" and all I knew was that it was something embarrassing and icky that only women talk about and men just need to know to avoid women during that time.

When I hear people arguing for abstinence-only education these days I cringe. I want to shout at the top of my lungs, "You don't really want that!" I know what that education looks like because that is the education I received. It was a sham to even call it "education." It was rather an absence of education. The so-called "abstinence" was an abstinence of knowledge about biology and empowerment about consent.

It did not help me in even a single way.

It did not discourage me from eventually having premarital sex. All it did was make me utterly ignorant of the reality of sex. It did not keep me from so-called sexual immorality. It made me incapable of acknowledging and processing my own experience of sexual abuse as a child.

As I have grown older, and both shared my story as well as heard other stories of former homeschool kids, there are so many similarities between our experiences. Sex felt like something dirty and secretive and repressed up until one's wedding day, and then magically it was supposed transform into something holy and beautiful and celebrated. Sex was something only men wanted, that was given by women in exchange for love. (I am aware now, too, that this harmful stereotype transcends Christianity and homeschooling.) Men were incapable of controlling their physical desires, always on the brink of the sexual sin of lust. So much so, that women had to carefully don the most modest of clothing to avoid causing men to "stumble." Men were also only attracted to women and women to men, thereby precluding any conversation about the existence of LGBT* individuals.

And foremost of all: sex education, that insidious tool of the evil secularists and humanists, was a weapon of Satan. It was described in classic misogynistic terms: a "temptress," a "whore of Babylon," hired by the Prince of Darkness to lead public schoolers astray. Us homeschoolers, God bless us, we were spared that temptation, as our parents took it upon themselves to raise us righteously, without sex education and its spurious ways.

But dreams run red lights and crash into the curbs of reality awfully hard.

As I hear more and more from former homeschoolers, I hear the same things I myself experienced: that what we were "spared from," what we were "blessed" to avoid, could have really helped us. No matter how hard our parents tried to keep us unstained from "the world," the world happened. We grew up. We made mistakes, got drunk, did drugs, made out, had sex; some of us were sexually abused and raped — all the things that happen outside of Christian homeschooling, too. The only difference is we had zero tools to process those things.

It is because of my very experience as a Christian homeschool kid that I am an advocate for comprehensive sex education.

I believe in comprehensive sex education because all people have the right to be empowered. I believe in comprehensive sex education because it is vitally important to know your body, respect your body and other people's bodies, and understand how to stand up against those people who both want you ignorant of your body and aim to disrespect your body.

Depriving children of that knowledge, for whatever ridiculous religious reasons, is nothing less than educational abuse. It is not pleasing to God or god or anything that is allegedly holy. Ignorance is a unholy prison. Forced ignorance is one of the most soul-crushing experiences one can have.

Children need to be educated about their bodies because that is how children learn how to respect and love them and each other's.

Children need to be educated about sexuality because sexuality is a fundamentally important part of being human.

Children need to be educated about consent because rape and sexual abuse happen in every community and every culture and you are living in a daydream if you think it will not happen in yours.

The more I learn about the universality of body-shaming, rape culture, and abuse, and the more I hear about how these things happen every day in Christian churches and conservative homeschooling communities, the more I see why sex ed is an absolute must. When we are afraid of sexuality, when we are afraid to talk bluntly and honestly and openly about our bodies and our emotions, we are giving power to those who want to take advantage of our ignorance and our silence. When we are blinded by our ideologies and unwilling to see every human being as worthy of respect and safety, we are giving power to those people advancing shame and bigotry. When we are afraid to name That Which Shall Not Be Named and speak about it plainly, we are only adding to the power of those in our communities — homeschooling, Christian, secular, and otherwise — who will abuse it.

I wish I knew about sex from something other than abuse. But my parents and my homeschooling community could not have changed that, no matter how much they wish they could.

Yet I also wish I knew how to talk about sex from something other than a Boy Scout merit badge. And that is something that my parents and my community could have done differently.

I have spent the last decade catching up on what I missed, on the lessons I never learned. It can be an awfully embarrassing process, but it is a necessary one.

About the Author:
R.L. Stollar is co-founder and Community Coordinator at Homeschoolers Anonymous, a cooperative online project by former homeschoolers. He is also a founding board member of Homeschool Alumni Reaching Out, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving homeschooling communities for future generations by educating homeschooling families about mental health and child abuse. Ryan was homeschooled from preschool through high school. He spent his high school years as a speech and debate competitor in the HSLDA-created National Christian Forensics and Communications Association and was one of the original student leaders for Communicators for Christ, now the Institute for Cultural Communicators. Through high school and college, he taught speech and debate to thousands of homeschool students across the nation with CFC conferences, a HSLDA National Leadership Retreat, Cedarville University, the University of Oregon, and elsewhere. He has a B.A. in Western philosophy and literature from Gutenberg College in Oregon and a M.A. in Eastern religions from St. John’s College in New Mexico. Ryan is the former volunteer News Editor of Eugene Daily News, a hyperlocal community news source in Oregon.

Member Article: Jesus and an Atheist Plea For a US Pathway to Citizenship

By Dr. Kristi Winters

This is my plea to Christians who would cite US immigration law as moral justification for opposing a pathway to citizenship. I will show how a teaching attributed to Jesus can be used by Christians and non-Christians alike to support a view that morally requires a pathway to citizenship.

During an August town hall meeting Congressman Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R- Tenn) was asked a question by 11 year-old Josie Molina, whose undocumented father is facing deportation. “I have a dad who’s undocumented, “she said. “What can I do so he can stay with me?” The Congressman thanked her for her question. He responded ‘the answer still kinda remains the same: we have laws and we need to follow those laws, and that’s where we’re at” (Lee, 2013).

After the media picked up on the exchange Congressman DesJarlais gave a statement which read, in part, “I felt I owed Ms. Molina an honest answer to her question. We are a nation of laws and breaking those laws have consequences. While this country has always had a generous immigration policy, we simply cannot condone individuals coming here illegally” (Marginol, 2013).

Later I saw this coverage on the Rachel Maddow show (Maddow, 2013). A crowd protested at a detention facility demanding the temporarily stop to all deportations while a pathway to citizenship is debated. After the protest finished a bus began to exit the facility. The crowd realized the bus carried people for deportation and the protestors spontaneously decided to sit in the road to stop the bus.

I was struck by the instinct of the protestors who empathized with the suffering of the families of those strangers on the bus. Their suffering was a direct result of the application of the laws that Congressman DesJarlais used as his moral justification. In that moment realized that Jesus and I shared a common view of how people should see the law. I would now like to show how Jesus and an atheist can find common ground on interpreting the law.

The teaching is found in Mark 2:27-28 (also Matt 3:1-8 and Luke 6:1-5).[i] Jesus and his disciples are walking through a field and some of his disciples began to pick the heads off grain, presumably to make food.  Some Pharisees are also hanging out near these fields and they question Jesus as to why his disciples are doing something unlawful on the Sabbath.  Answering a question with a question, Jesus asks them about King David and his companions who, when they were hungry, took the Bread of Presence and ate it even though that was unlawful for anyone but the priests. Jesus then says, “The sabbath was made for people, not people for the sabbath. Therefore, the son of man is lord even of the sabbath.”[ii] [iii]

I want to focus on these sentences: “The sabbath was made for people, not people for the sabbath. Therefore, the son of man is lord even of the sabbath.” I will first present a Christian theological interpretation, and then I will look at the passage from an historical Jesus perspective. 

In Christian theology one purpose of this passage is to establish Jesus’ right to interpret the Law. The other conveys that Jesus’ interpretation of the Law focuses on the spirit rather than the letter. I quote here from Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology entry for ‘Sabbath’:

‘…by stressing that the Sabbath was made for humankind and not humankind for the Sabbath (Mark 2:27) Jesus gives an indication as to its true meaning. That is, he places it against the universal horizon of God's intent that it benefit all creation and not just Israel’ (Elwell, 1996). What I want to highlight here is that the sabbath, as part of the law, was meant to benefit humans, not harm them.

How does this relate to immigration in America?  It goes to the use of the law as moral justification for tearing families apart. If American Christians look to the Bible for their guidance on how to interpret laws, what they will find is Jesus demonstrating an interpretation of Jewish law that promotes human good. I don’t think anyone, Christian or non-Christian, could watch this video and think that putting family members on opposite sides of a wall is good (Unitedwestand, 2013).

I also want to explore this passage from an historical perspective. Professor Bart Ehrman, an expert in the New Testament, points to this passage as one that scholars think very likely goes back to the historical Jesus. His argument is very compelling: this passage actually makes more sense in Aramaic than it does in the Greek translation.

“The sabbath was made for people, not people for the sabbath. Therefore, the son of man is lord even of the sabbath.”  Ehrman (2012) points out the confusing inclusion of ‘therefore’ which means ‘as a consequence’ or ‘as a result’ (Random House, 2010). He writes, ‘I sometimes tell my students that when they see the word therefore in a passage, they should ask, what is the therefore there for?’ (p. 89). The problem is solved by translating this passage back into the language of Jesus: Aramaic. Aramaic uses the same word, barnash, to mean both “man/human” and “son of man.” We can re-write the passage to get closer its original version: “The sabbath was made for barnash, not barnash for the sabbath. Therefore, barnash is lord even of the sabbath.” 

The ‘therefore’ now makes more sense.  Humans are lord of the sabbath because it was created for them; humans were not created to be slaves to the law. This interpretation puts the moral responsibility on humans to interpret the law in life-affirming ways.

These two interpretations, one based in Christian theology and one from an historical approach, converge on the same moral point: the law (or the sabbath) is meant to promote what is good for people; it is not a good in and of itself.  If questions arise as to how to interpret the law (or the sabbath) then we must be guided by the knowledge that it was made for humans, and it should be interpreted in a way that furthers human good.

Our laws are there to protect people, not to harm them.  When our laws are harming more people than they are helping, Jesus prods those who follow him to examine their hearts and conscience. I therefore cite Jesus in my plea to Christians and ask them to consider the moral consequences of opposing a pathway to citizenship. Is the law doing more harm than good when thousands of Josie Molinas are parted from their mothers and fathers? 

Hiding behind the law will not protect us from the moral responsibility of supporting policies that result in children and parents reaching out to embrace through the walls of a fence. As an atheist, I stand with Jesus on this issue. Do what is good for human life, for families and for the well-being of so many children. Support a pathway to citizenship.


Ehrman, Bart (2012) ‘Chapter 3: The Gospels as Historical Sources’ Did Jesus Exist? Harper Collins E-pub edition. Pp. 69-92 of 365 pages.

Elwell, Walter A. (1996) Baker's Evangelical Dictionary. Baker Books: Grand Rapids, MI

Lee, Traci. (2013) ‘Crowd cheers as GOP rep. tells girl her dad should be deported’ Martin Bashir, MSNBC.

Margolin, Emma. (2013) ‘GOP rep insists 11-year-old’s undocumented dad has to go’ Thomas Roberts, MSNBC.

Maddow, Rachel. (2013) ‘New generation of activists fight rights abuses’ The Rachel Maddow Show, MSNBC.

Random House Kernerman Webster's College Dictionary. (2010) ‘Therefore’

Unitedwedream (2013) ‘Operation Butterfly Reunion at the Border’ YouTube.

[i] Mark is the earliest of the four gospels, and therefore the closest in time to the historical Jesus.

[ii] I do not use modern practices of capitalization such as ‘Son of Man’ since these do not appear in the earliest and best manuscripts.

[iii] Webster Bible Translation.


Breaking the Buckles

By Rebekah Hertzberg, for more of her work visit her website.

“What would you like to work on today?” Dr. B asks after I settle into the antique patterned sofa.

“I don’t know.” I respond, a usual response for me until I decide to divulge my new goals and life objectives. My mind changes at every new meeting. We have discussed almost all of my plans for the near future, the future that will ensue in June once I obtain my master’s degree.

Dr. B and I share some experiences. We have both traveled abundantly and have both, during our travels, traveled to Israel. He suspects my Jewish heritage because of the spelling of Rebekah, not to mention my very German surname. We have spoken about my heritage at length on two separate occasions, at least spoken as much as my small knowledge of my heritage allows.

I tell Dr. B that I am an Atheist during my visit to him last month. I had already divulged my nonreligious nature during one of our first sessions, some nine months prior, after I relayed my childhood background that included confirmation in the Methodist church and attendance at an Episcopalian high school. I broached the subject myself, in the beginning, admitting not only my nonreligious preference but my sexual preference as well. I guess I was hoping he might refuse to serve as my therapist, and I would have the perfect reason to avert my personal issues.

When he did not refuse me service, I decided to continue meeting with him on a mostly regular basis. Dr. B works with his wife at Complete Counsel Associates. In the waiting room, there are numerous plaques, posters, and other religious propaganda and memorabilia. The business card I am handed by Dr. B for each of my follow-up appointments even has a scripture on it: Acts 20:27 NKJV, which when I looked up, reads: For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God.

My current residence in Danville, Virginia should not go unmentioned. For someone who avoids church, religion emanates at every nook and cranny of this small city. Danville is part of the Bible Belt, and though mostly unimpressionable, I have noticed the plethora of churches and religious organizations in the city. As a lesbian living in a small conservative city, I tend to isolate myself. I abandoned religion long before I came out during my freshman year of college. My distrust of religion runs deeper than my sexual orientation: I just never felt comfortable in church, reciting scripture synchronously, singing hymns, and praying profusely. The fact that I am a lesbian and shunned by many congregations, especially in Danville, only intensifies my distrust.

To accentuate the Christian-minded community of Danville, I also have contact with a tattoo artist, who is involved in his own ministry, God’s Gift Ministries. He attends a local church and paints portraits of Jesus during an allotted time after the sermon. Despite our differences, he has been supportive of my zine, Fractal, for quite some time, purchasing ads and agreeing to display them in his shop, even when I had a picture of Obama on the cover of the November 2012 issue.
Coming into contact with people like my therapist and the tattoo artist is commonplace in Danville, and, although it has taken some time and inner strength and resolve, I support my religious and sexual preferences. It can be isolating to live in such a narrow-minded, conservative community like Danville. I share the perspective of the community (as narrow-minded and unsupportive) with the tattoo artist, and we share a love for art, though we differ on religious preference. I seem to be surrounded by an automatically infused Bible Belt landscape but accept myself and maintain a mostly content frame of mind.
I have actually lived in two cities noted as being “buckles” in the Bible Belt due to the number of churches and religiously affiliated institutions. I graduated from college in Springfield, Missouri, home of Evangel University (I went to Drury University), a city that is almost 88% Caucasian and only 4% African-American due to a lynching in 1906, where all three men were determined innocent of their alleged crimes.
I also attended college for a short period in Lynchburg, Virginia, home to Liberty University and the late Jerry Falwell, at what used to be Randolph-Macon Woman’s College (it is now coed and called Randolph College). I came out my freshman year. For now, my plan is to move to Nashville, Tennessee post graduation, and even though it is another reported “buckle” of the Bible Belt, I appreciate the culture of Nashville, albeit its Christian associations and Christian university, Belmont.
I am a secular lesbian, two traits that are not evident by my appearance. I look normal, act normal for the most part, and choose to present myself in a fairly conservative manner. While I can respect the nature of religious organizations and some of the people involved therein, like my psychologist and the tattoo artist, I will not change my own perspective to appease the consciousness of the sometimes seeming majority, which, given my current, prior, and future locales, is indeed the majority.

Queer Shaming by Religious based Abstinence Only Education

Secular Woman’s second article in the LGBTQ week Series

By Karin Weiss, read her blog Abstinence Only Recovery

I’ve been out as bisexual since 9th grade (14 years old). I was lucky that most people in my high school were accepting of it. There were only a few very seriously religious teens at my school, but, unfortunately, the curriculum of my abstinence only sex ed class was not so accepting.

First let’s talk about one of the extremely religious teens. I had a friend we’ll call Joe. When I was in 10th grade and he was in 11th we became very good friends. He liked to watch Star Wars and go hiking and read books. We started crushing on each other and decided we wanted to date. Then I told him that I was bisexual. I didn’t think it would be a big deal. I knew he was religious but it never occurred to me that one of my friends would be anti-LGBT. He was hurt by the fact. He wanted me to be straight because he couldn’t date someone with homosexual tendencies. He wanted me to go to church with him, and since I was a teenager with raging hormones I agreed.

Just before we started dating I had been realizing that I was an atheist. I was raised without religion and it just never occurred to me to put a name on it.

I got to know him and his family and saw that he got along really well with his parents. Now, he is currently in school to be a physician. His family looks like the American Dream, but I know from conversations with them that they believe that the human body has the ability to live for 900 years if the person lives Biblically. They believe that people can choose to be gay, straight, trans, or bisexual. Once Joe said “I’ve thought about dating guys and I find the thought disgusting, so I have decided to be straight”.

It took me 7 months to stop trying to be straight and stop trying to believe in Joe’s religion. I broke up with him when I realized that it was wrong for me to try to change who I was to be in a romantic relationship.

I think that a big part of why I put up with that relationship and denial of my identity was that my school used a curriculum of abstinence-only sex education which ignored or shamed LGBT students and taught religious views on sex as scientific and psychological fact. We were taught that even our “normal” sexual impulses were disgusting and evil, so if someone was LGBT they were even worse in the eyes of our health class. We were taught that sex is a tool for procreation within a marriage and that any other sexual activity would “destroy your reputation”, give you a disease, or make a girl pregnant with an unwanted child. LGBT sex was not mentioned, but it was implied that it was wrong because it did not produce a child and the partners could not be married.

I remember being in that class and thinking that I would wait until marriage to have sex whether I ended up with a man or a woman. Since it was a public school the instructors couldn’t tell us that sex before marriage would send us to hell, but they did make it sound like our lives would be a living hell of disease, depression, and bullying. Only after I graduated did I understand that the class was based on religious opinions about sex and completely devoid of real scientific information. In high school I still believed that if a teacher told me something was based on real science it was true. I didn’t have the presence of mind to research the information my teachers told me because I never doubted it.

I’m in college now and I’m still recovering from the shame about sex and being bisexual that I was taught by that class. Abstinence only education is horrible for LGBT students and straight cisgender students. It led me to deny my own identity for the sake of a relationship and it caused me much shame and pain in my sex and dating life later on.

Senator Wendy Davis Leads “Unruly Mob” in Exercise of Democracy

Thanks to the bravery of Texas senator Wendy Davis, the Texas democrats, and hundreds of Texans in attendance at the capitol yesterday, Senate Bill 5––a bill that would have legislated widespread restrictions to abortion access––is dead. Secular Woman applauds this brave stand by Davis, whose filibuster last night that made national news and quickly garnered massive support on social media (including a tweet linking to the livestream from President Obama, using the hashtag #StandWithWendy.).

Though Texas lieutenant governor David Dewhurst suspended the filibuster at 10 p.m. last night, claiming Davis digressed from the topic at hand with her discussion of mandatory ultrasounds, the Democrats appealed the decision immediately, and the already-inspired crowd became even more animated.

Spectators filled the chamber gallery, chanting “Let her speak” for several minutes after the filibuster was suspended. The Austin Statesman reported that the senate struggled to vote on the bill “over the sustained and screaming protests from spectators in the gallery,” especially when Republicans motioned to call off all debate. Senators tried to vote on the bill, but the crowd continued its protests, exploding into cheers when State Sen. Leticia Van De Putte, challenging the ruling against Davis, asked, "At what point must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over her male colleagues?” The "people's filibuster" delayed the vote until the clock ran out on the session, the Statesman reported this morning; Secular Woman donated to RH Reality Check’s call for funds to help provide food for the protestors. Lt. Gov. Dewhurst expressed his frustration to the Statesman, remarking, "An unruly mob, using Occupy Wall Street tactics, disrupted the Senate from protecting unborn babies.” If the “tactic” he is referring to is democracy, he couldn’t be more correct.

Monday night, Davis tweeted, "The leadership may not want to listen to TX women, but they will have to listen to me. I intend to filibuster this bill. #SB5 #txlege" Beginning at 11:18 a.m. on Tuesday, and sporting pink tennis shoes, Davis began an eleven-hour filibuster against a bill that would have closed all but five of the state's abortion clinics, prohibited abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, forced clinics to upgrade to ambulatory surgical centers, and restricted access to medication abortions, reported the Huffington Post. The bill also would have required any doctor at a clinic to obtain admitting rights at a local hospital, reporter Ben Philpott told NPR. “In rural Texas… you don’t have a hospital within 30 miles of some of these clinics, let alone one that would then be able to give you admitting privileges.” While Republicans argued that the bill would help ensure women’s safety, it would effectively have shut down all but a handful of clinics in the state.

Secular Woman supports every person's right to bodily and sexual autonomy and opposes all attempts to criminalize or limit access to comprehensive reproductive services such as contraception and abortion. Our @AbortTheocracy campaign, which covered the session proceedings until the wee hours via Twitter, is specifically focused on the intersection of religious power and women's bodily autonomy and sovereignty and dedicated to terminating that connection by opposing religious influence in government. We stand with Wendy Davis and applaud her activism to protect women’s health in Texas. “Women are entitled to full and complete ownership of their bodies,” says Secular Woman President Kim Rippere.

The connection between full bodily autonomy and religious influence in government must be terminated so that women are free, empowered, and in control of their lives and their futures.

Davis began her filibuster by accusing the GOP of "a raw abuse of power," citing their decision to allow the bill to be debated without the required two-thirds support and accusing them of placing a political agenda over the well-being of Texans. “The reality of this bill is not to make women safer … it’s to force the closure of facilities across the state of Texas that would provide proper care to women,” Davis said. “The actions intended by our state’s leaders hurt Texas; they hurt Texas women and their families.”  

Texas rules for a filibuster prohibit leaning on one's desk, pausing, or straying off subject; warnings work on a three-strike system, reports NPR. Davis took no bathroom breaks, spoke with no food or water, and wore a back brace to avoid needing to lean. At one point Republican Sen. Tommy Williams  attempted to have her filibuster suspended because of the back brace. Democratic Senator Kirk Watson expressed support for Davis's filibuster, telling the Statesman,

There’s an assault on women in this state and this legislation is a prime example of that. It’s important that a woman who’s the mother of two daughters will be the one standing. We will all be there providing assistance and help.

Though The Texas Legislative Service originally listed SB5 as having passed on “6-26-13,” the listing was changed shortly after 1 a.m. to reflect passage before midnight; at 3 a.m., Dewhurst announced that although the bill passed on a 19-to-10 vote, it was dead.

“Today was democracy in action,” Davis told her crowd of supporters last night. “You all are the voices we were speaking for from the floor.” In response to Lt. Gov. Dewhurst’s “unruly mob” remark, Davis retorted, “I think that’s a disservice to the people who were here. The people who were here were justifiably upset about an attempt to infringe upon a constitutional right they hold dear, primarily one that would have an impact on women but also on the men who love them.”

Introducing the LGBTQ Article Series, Recognizing Pride Month

This week Secular Woman will be featuring stories on LGBT people and their experiences with the oppressive forces of religion. Many queer and gender variant people face horrific and relentless discrimination and hatred from their faith (or former faith), and often from their family who practices a faith which rejects them. Part of our vision is a world where secular values celebrate same-sex love and people of all gender identities and expressions.

The stories this week show how far we have to come as a society and the capacity of the secular, atheist, and humanist communities to embrace LGBTQ people and stand with them in their fight for equality and justice. It is our goal to share these stories with the expectation of increasing understanding in the secular community of the challenges gender and sexual minorities face and the importance of continuing to support their struggle for acceptance and equality.

Our Thoughts on Secular Exclusion from the Boston Memorials


For more information, please contact:

Kim Rippere, Secular Woman President: 404.669.6727 E-mail

Elsa Roberts, Secular Woman Vice President: 906.281.0384 E-mail

Our Thoughts on Secular Exclusion from the Boston Memorials

Secular Woman is an organization which supports women without supernatural beliefs and works to ensure they have the opportunities and resources they need to participate openly and confidently as respected voices in every aspect of society including their government. When we come together as a society in light of tragedy it is important to ensure that people who have been affected have the resources they need to cope with the situation. Many people thrive on social support, which is partly composed of caring and motivating words from people who are seen as leaders within their community.

The percentage of those who are non-affiliated with any religion or are nonbelievers in the US is said to be as high as 20% of our population. When humanist and secular groups are excluded from services such as the interfaith service for the Boston bombings it erases them as a valid and important segment of the community and citizenry. It also denies many the grieving, mourning, and community they are craving during a time of upheaval. Excluding citizenry from a government sponsored and organized community memorial does not treat all citizens the same; it is unjust, discriminatory, and unconstitutional.

In the future when an occasion arises where coming together as a strong society is necessary, Secular Woman insists that secular community leaders also be chosen to show the passion we have to help our society heal.


Secular Woman is an educational non-profit organization whose mission is to amplify the voice, presence, and influence of non-religious women. For more information about Secular Woman visit: