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Human Rights Begin in the Pew

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Religious-based bigotry eviscerates women's human rights the world over, and God doesn't like it one damned bit.

Today at the grocery store, I overheard a mom telling her little girl, "Of course you can be President of the United States!" It seems a boy at school said girls were not good enough to be president because they weren't boys. Even though I had heard such things before (I am the youngest of six with five older brothers), this particular conversation stopped me dead in my religious tracks.

Catholicism decided I wasn't good enough to be a leader in the Church about 2,000 years before I was born. I couldn't be its president (aka "pope") or a priest or bishop or cardinal because I happened to be female. Not knowing any better, I accepted my Catholic less-than-ness as a fact of life, like when the Little League in Wheaton, Ill., said I couldn't play because I was a girl. I didn't organize sit ins on the pitcher's mound or walk outs from the pew. Like other girls, I simply accepted the adult-dictated view of things.

The Catholic Church believes the Bible (a document written, translated and almost entirely interpreted by men) establishes that men are, quite literally, born leaders. The Church claims that women can't be priests because Jesus wanted it that way. Really? A man didn't play any role whatsoever in Jesus' conception (from all accounts, it was sperm-free). Christ came out of a woman's uterus, which seems to be a pretty important part of the birth story. Jesus' most trusted disciple was arguably Mary Magdalene. The risen Jesus didn't show Himself to the fellas at the local mens-only oasis. He first appeared to Mary. Experts believe it was Mary at Jesus' right in DaVinci's Last Supper. She wasn't doing dishes in the back or filling the wine glasses for the boys, she was right next to Mr. Equality Himself.

The wildly dangerous and incredibly pathetic part of religiously based gender bigotry is the critical role it plays in legitimizing the horrific treatment of women in societies throughout the world. Women aren't equal in the eyes of God, Jesus, Allah, Yahweh, etc., therefore: Cover your face and body or be whipped. You're forbidden to drive or vote or hold a paying job. Don't speak, as you are not worthy to be heard. You deserve to be treated like objects or property or animals. It is justified by God that you be beaten or stoned to death simply for being the victim of your own femininity. Face the cold, brutally hard fact that all of your human rights are dependent on what men, not God, feel they should be.

In the Catholic "faith," women are told to accept that our own religion utilizes every political and legal channel known to man (aided by the money we put in the Sunday collection basket) to prevent us from controlling what happens in our bedrooms or to our bodies. Using God to control women is what we in marketing might call a "Top Down" strategy. Find an expert and leverage his/her position to convince consumers of a "truth." Unfortunately, God isn't around to verify the man-made claims in support of gender inequity, or to expose it as the load of crap it most certainly is. I believe God made us equal. We may be different physically, but God sees us as His children. Not as His sons and those other ones, but as His children. Precious. Made in His image.

By attending Catholic mass, I'm tacitly endorsing women's inequality within the Church. Through my silence, I am agreeing with its calculated discrimination against females. I am supporting a Church that fights to control women's reproductive choices and is hell bent on ruining the lives of my God-loving gay brothers and sisters. And at the end of the day, I'm going to have to explain to Jesus why I would patronize any organization that doesn't treat His children equally.

I believe in exacting change from the inside out by trying to make things better rather than abandoning them. However, unless I can find a way to express my opposition to all forms of bigotry within the confines of my Church (wearing a sandwich board, neon sign or set of very large buttons to Mass being viable, short term solutions), I'm going to have to stick by the teachings of my God and sit that pew out.

Sarah O'Leary is a writer, marketing expert and licensed minister. She encourages you to share this and all of her Huffington Posts. Sarah answers all comments made herein, and may be reached via email: sarahathuffpo@gmail.com.