A while ago, I wrote a post on encouraging more secular participation in the pro-life movement and asked readers to give their ideas on how we might increase religious diversity. Thanks to everyone who gave feedback. Here are a few suggestions. Feel encouraged to add more in the comments section, or email us (firstname.lastname@example.org)!
10 Ways To Be Inclusive
- Remember you don’t know people’s religious views unless they tell you. Often we associate certain political perspectives, cultural backgrounds, sexual orientations, and other factors with certain religious beliefs (or lack thereof). But in reality, people with all sorts of backgrounds can have different religious beliefs. Do not assume you can guess a person’s religious affiliation. For example, don’t assume that a person is secular just because they identify as LGBT, or that a person is Christian just because they want to help with the pro-life cause. Take each person as an individual. If you want to know where someone stands on issues of faith, ask them. :-)
- Let people describe themselves. No one wants to be given a label they don’t agree with. “Atheist,” “agnostic,” “religious,” “spiritual”—different people define these terms in slightly different ways. Don’t tell people which label best applies to them, and try to avoid debates about what the labels should mean. Instead, ask people how they describe themselves religiously, and ask them what they mean by the labels they use. Ask them what philosophies or ideas influence their positions on abortion.
- Use inclusive language. Using inclusive language means talking in a way that either does not express a religious preference or acknowledges a variety of religious affiliations. For example, instead of “We are all made in God’s image,” you could say “We believe each human being has value.” The latter statement applies equally well whether the listener believes in God or not.
- Talk about diversity. Be explicit about the fact that you welcome people from all different backgrounds. Talk with your fellow pro-lifers about the range of people who consider themselves pro-life, and how to include and encourage all types. If you are hosting an event, specifically announce that you welcome all attending, whatever their background. Make sure any pro-life minorities know you are glad they are there.
- Include religiously diverse flyers, posters, and publications. Many of the people interested in the abortion debate are Christian, and may find Christian-based publications useful and insightful. But of course our country is a diverse one, including people of many other religious beliefs and people who aren’t affiliated with religion at all. Having publications addressed to religious minorities shows your group anticipates and welcomes their presence. These publications also give people something firm to take home and really think about.
- Focus on fighting abortion. It is easier to unite diverse groups by focusing on their common ground. Here, our common ground is our opposition to abortion. Other political topics (e.g. gay marriage, welfare programs, the death penalty, etc.) only serve to alienate people from varied backgrounds who otherwise want to help the pro-life cause. We are here to grow the pro-life movement, so focus on being pro-life. Let people work out their differences on other topics in their own time.
- Do not evangelize. If people of other faiths or no faith believe you are welcoming them only because you see them as a soul to save, most of them will not continue participating. Please keep in mind that many secularists are former people of faith. People leave their faiths for a variety of reasons, and those reasons can sometimes be sensitive, even painful to discuss. People want to feel accepted for who they are. They want to be seen as friends and allies, not projects. If someone asks you about your faith, it is completely appropriate to discuss your beliefs with them. If cross-religious friendships blossom from your pro-life work together, conversations about your faith may come about organically. However, don’t initiate such conversations unasked, especially when first meeting and getting to know fellow activists.
- Strengthen the voices of pro-life minorities. Make your inclusiveness pro-active! Ask non-traditional pro-lifers to blog for your website, give talks to your group, or just chat with you over coffee about how they arrive at their pro-life positions. Giving pro-life minorities a stronger voice (1) makes them feel welcome, (2) helps everyone understand one another, and (3) increases the pro-life movement’s diversity and inclusiveness.
- Discuss comments that are religiously biased when you hear them. We are all in this cause together, and we should stick up for one another. If you hear someone using non-inclusive language, making derogatory jokes, or voicing misinformation about other peoples’ religious beliefs (or lack thereof), mention it. You can either speak with the person directly, or talk to your pro-life group leader about it privately. Discuss why you think the comment may be inappropriate or could be improved.
- When in doubt, contact us! Whether you are planning a pro-life event, want to increase diversity in your pro-life club, or are just generally curious—contact us! We are very happy to give feedback on the secular pro-life perspective and how we can all improve communication and cooperation between diverse pro-lifers.