Several Protestant clergy gathered in Annapolis yesterday to voice their opposition to Maryland's proposed abortion law, saying they have urged parishioners to vote against the measure in the Nov. 3 referendum.
"This is not merely a Roman Catholic issue," said the Rev. DaleLinder of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, who was joined by five other members of Clergy Against Question 6. The group is working with the Vote kNOw Coalition, which is leading opposition to the measure.
Some Catholic churches came under fire last week for passing a basket during Mass to raise money for the coalition. An organization called Catholics for a Free Choice said the fund-raising turned a sacred religious event into a political rally.
But Mr. Linder and the five other clergymen said they, too, had encouraged their congregations to contribute financially to the anti-abortion coalition. And they said they hadn't heard any criticism.
"We have gone as far ourselves as taking up a collection," Mr. Linder said. "It was taken on a voluntary basis. Our people were not coerced. And we plan to take up another offering for this cause."
"As a citizen it's my right and my duty to make my voice heard," said the Rev. Michael Conolly of the Solid Rock Church in Baltimore. "Americans don't want the type of liberal abortion law Maryland has."
Several ministers said they were particularly concerned about the law's provisions regarding parental notification. The law would, in the words of the referendum, "provide certain exceptions to the requirement that a physician notify an unmarried minor's parent or guardian prior to minor's abortion."
The Rev. Ed Meeks of Trinity Assembly of God in Lutherville said the issue of parental notification was one reason he wanted to come out publicly against the measure.
"That aspect of parental notification can be easily overlooked by those doing the abortions," Mr. Meeks said. "I know of few parents who would be willing to relinquish that right to help their daughter. [The law] is not in the best interest of women, of children, of families."
The Rev. Dana Collette, pastor of the Covenant Baptist Church in Columbia, said he had counseled many women "suffering with grief" over their past decision to have an abortion. "I believe first .. and foremost that if Question 6 is passed, there will be more grief as we deal with more abortions in our state," he said.
The referendum has drawn the attention of religious leaders on both sides of the issue. Another group of clergy, the Maryland Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights, is campaigning to get the law approved.