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The Invisible Burka: Why women need secularism

Gale Walldorff holds a historic sign of a woman saying "Don't tell me what to do," during the "Walk in My Shoes, Hear Our Voice" Protest Monday, March 12, 2012 at the state Capitol in Atlanta. The rally Monday comes after the Senate last week passed measures banning abortion coverage under state employees' health care plans and exempting religious health care providers from having to cover birth control. (Jason Getz - AP)

The first presidential election in which I voted was 1976, with Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford running for office. The election arrived on the heels of a tumultuous time in America: Nixon had resigned in disgrace and there was a dark mistrust of politics. Carter came in as the Washington outsider and carried the South (unusual for post civil-rights Democrats) because of his evangelical roots. As it turned out, Jimmy Carter was a big disappointment to the evangelical Christians - he believed he had the duty of upholding the Constitution and the wall of church-state separation. Like Kennedy, he believed his religion was private and not the basis for presidential decisions.

Only 12 years before those elections, the Civil Rights Act had been passed, and the year before the election, the twenty-year conflict in Vietnam finally came to a close. For some, the changes were frightening, but for others there seemed to be a renewed sense of hope: political change, changes in the long-standing social structure, and the idea that we would never again get ourselves into a long-drawn out conflict with little chance of resolution.

For me, as a young woman just starting her adult life, the women’s liberation movement and the inclusion of ‘sex’ in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act gave me something very powerful. I did not have to follow the paths of my mother, grandmothers, or their mothers before them. I could have a career. I didn’t have to find a husband to make me a complete person, and I could decide when or whether to have children.

Now, here I am, 36 years older, and I am watching in horror as those opportunities are being threatened by theocratic Christians.

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