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Monday, April 30, 2012

The New Faces of Reproductive Justice


I've been sitting on my hands for over a week and now it's finally official.

Harry Knox is the new President and CEO of RCRC (Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice). I was elected to the board of this amazing organization a few months ago and had the enormous privilege of being one of the unanimous voices who voted for his appointment.

I've appended the "official" announcement below. 

It's no secret that Harry has been the Interim Director of IntegrityUSA. This is, of course, a huge loss for Integrity, but Harry assures me that he will be staying on until after General Convention (July 5-12), taking up his position with RCRC on July 16th. 

Harry is nothing if not an honorable man and I know he will continue to work hard for IntegrityUSA until the last seconds of his tenure. Caro Hall, the President of IntegrityUSA and the rest of the board have already been hard at work during this interim period to bring a new Director to this important organization in The Episcopal Church.  Stay tuned.

Since 1997, RCRC has been more than ably led by the Rev'd Dr. Carlton W. Veazey, who initiated Interfaith, Youth and Multicultural Programs, as well as many other programs, including the launch of the Black Church Initiative, which opened difficult but crucial conversations in the Black community concerning sexuality and reproductive rights.  He retired from RCRC last year.

I speak for myself but I know the board members will agree that Dr. Veazey has left us a rich legacy and a firm foundation to continue the faith-based movement for Reproductive Justice.

All of that is important information, but what I really want you to do is to take a close look at the picture above. 

That's Harry, of course, on the left. The woman in the picture is the Rev'd Dr. Alethea Smith-Withers, the President of the Board of RCRC. She is the founder and pastor of Pavilion of God, a Baptist and multicultural church in Washington, DC.  She is also a self-described "overcomer" (vs. "survivor") of Breast Cancer who, in her battle against Cancer has started her own blog "Blessed Breasts". 

Harry is the first openly gay man to lead RCRC. Alethea is the first woman of color to be President of the Board of Directors.

Take a good look, kids. These are the new faces of Reproductive Justice.  This is the expansion of our understanding of Reproductive Justice.

What we've learned about the language of "Reproductive Choice" is that it comes from a decided position of privilege. There must be justice before than can be choice. Indeed, the whole issue of choice is made even more complex by the many tragic injustices with which many women live.

So, what does a white, gay man know about any of that? Well, Harry Knox knows a lot of stuff and he is eminently qualified for the position.  Of this, there is no question.

I want to answer that question from a more generic perspective because it could also be asked why lesbians, bisexual or transgender people are concerned about Reproductive Justice.  

For some unenlightened souls who are....well, let's just use the word 'unaware'....of the fullness of the spectrum of human sexuality and gender expression, this may seem an oxymoron.

The rights of LGBT people to retain custody and visiting rights of the children they already have, or to adopt, to have children in foster care, to give birth to a child either through IVF, insemination or surrogacy and yes, even Marriage Equality, are all issues of Reproductive Justice.

Okay, I'll give some of you who read this blog a moment to get your heads wrapped around all of that. If you think about it for one red hot second, you'll hear some of the old (well, not as old as we'd like to think) arguments about LGBT people and their rights which include such things as:

...... "they can't reproduce so they recruit" (hence, the association in some little minds between homosexuality and pedophilia); and....

..... "they can't marry, they are too promiscuous" (actually, the situation is reversed). 

In the past decade or so - well some of us for longer than that - LGBT people, our families and friends and allies have been working very hard to reverse that stereotype. We enjoy families of origin and families of choice. Some of us even enjoy grandchildren of choice.

We can only fully enjoy the privilege of 'choice' when there is justice and equality.

Women - and especially women of color - have known that for centuries. We've known it because we live it.  In the presence of injustice our choices rapidly diminish, sometimes leaving us the choice between several bad options.

LGBT people also know this truth. The struggle for Marriage Equality and parental rights goes on so that all people - all God's children - can know the liberty promised us by the founders of this country as well as the liberation promised us in the Gospel of Christ Jesus.

So, there it is, kids. The new faces of Reproductive Justice: A heterosexual woman of color who is a self-described "overcomer" of Breast Cancer, and a Caucasian gay man who is passionate about health care and justice.

Two passionate people who are deeply committed, along with a strong, vibrant board of many interfaith voices, to strengthen our alliances with other progressive organizations of varied interfaith perspectives who are working for justice and equality.

In the midst of the War on Women, which has its foundation and gains its strength and funding from the religious voices on the Right, I can't think of better leadership for this time for progressive voices of faith.

So, rejoice with me. And, rejoice for us.

And, get ready to hear a lot more from the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice.

Somebody tell the Boyz on Capitol Hill to fasten their seat belts.

Nah, never mind. They'll find out soon enough.

The Board of Directors of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC) is pleased to announce the appointment of Reverend Harry Knox as President and Chief Executive Officer of RCRC, the nation’s coalition of organizations from 15 denominations and faith traditions committed to reproductive rights and justice.
Reverend Knox is a national leader in the progressive faith community and a well-known advocate for reproductive and sexual health and justice. As a compelling moral voice for human rights, Reverend Knox was appointed in February 2009 by President Obama to the President’s Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships. 

“Harry Knox has advocated for the rights of women and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in some of the most hostile venues imaginable, including the Georgia General Assembly, and with staunch opponents of human rights in the United States Congress,” said Reverend Dr. Alethea Smith-Withers, Chair of the RCRC Board of Directors.

“In the current climate of relentless attacks on abortion and birth control in the name of religion, our country needs the faith-inspired courage Reverend Knox brings to safeguarding and advancing women’s health and the dignity of all people.”

Reverend Knox says of his appointment: “There is no more vital work to be done in this historic moment than stopping the rollback of women’s access to health care and self-determination. Women need more health care resources and options, not less. Young people are a priority for RCRC and we look forward to an expansion of engagement with youth and young adult leaders through our Spiritual Youth for Reproductive Freedom program. Church, temple or synagogue should be the first place people of faith and their families turn when facing difficult decisions about reproductive health. RCRC will continue to lead in providing faith leaders the resources they need to offer responsible guidance and support. I ask for the prayers of all those who care about reproductive justice as I begin this new role.”

Reverend Knox was the founding director of the Human Rights Campaign’s Religion and Faith Program, where he supervised the creation of a national speakers’ bureau that reached more than 10 million Americans monthly and was instrumental in creating a national network of 22 progressive state clergy coalitions. Since 2011, he has been Interim Executive Director of Integrity USA, the voice of LGBT Episcopalians and their allies. He will begin his position at RCRC July 16,2012.

Reverend Knox’s management and advocacy experience includes positions with the American Cancer Society; Equality Florida; Georgia Equality; and Freedom to Marry. He has pastored churches in Georgia and TexasHe was the recipient of the 2000 Cordle Award for Promotion of God’s Diversity and Lancaster Theological Seminary’s 2005 Robert V. Moss Medal for Excellence in Ministry.


Kay & Sarah said...

The Rev. Harry Knox is a great choice for this position. I had the privilege of meeting him in October at the 10th Anniversary Celebration of Integrity Georgia. I worked for many years in a Women's Health program and now am married to a transgender woman. I really "get" why Harry is such a great choice!! We will miss him in Integrity but his influence will still be around.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Harry Knox ROCKS! Hard!

lizziewriter said...

The appointment is very cool however I just wanted to post that I love your feed-the-fish widget. Lost almost all our fish to Hurricane Irene and I miss them. Plus yours are just so cute.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thanks, Lizziwriter. I'm rather fond of them myself. Thanks for feeding them. They are hungry critters.

Jacy Montoya Price said...

Thank you for sharing more information about Rev. Knox! I appreciate learning more about him. Excited about his leadership of RCRC.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

I think it's all enormously exciting

DrKiss5477 said...

Congrat's Harry!!! I knew harry back in the 90's when we worked together. I was thinking about him today and wondering what he was up to, so I googled him and found this article. How awesome. I am quite proud of my friend and know that He will do an amazing job. Way to go Harry!!