Jimmy Carter Blames Religious Leaders who Teach Women’s Inferiority for Male-Female Pay Inequity

Former President Jimmy Carter spoke exclusively with NBC's “Meet the Press.” (NBC News)
Former President Jimmy Carter spoke exclusively with NBC’s “Meet the Press.” (NBC News)

Former President Jimmy Carter says that the fact that women, on average, earn less than men in the workplace is partly because of religious leaders who present women’s inferiority as gospel.

“In the United States for the same exact work for a full-time employee, women get 23 percent less pay than men. And in the Fortune 500, only 21 of those leaders among the 500 are women, and in that high level, they get 42 percent less pay” than men get, Carter said in an interview with MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell that aired Monday. “That is really derived, I would say, indirectly from the fact that religious leaders say that women are inferior in the eyes of God, which is a false interpretation” of Scriptures, he said.

The Nobel laureate was discussing his forthcoming book, “A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence, and Power,” which is to be released Tuesday. In it, he calls the situation for women worldwide one of the greatest human rights issues of the day, including in the United States.

(Also on POLITICO: Carter: ‘My own communications are probably monitored’)

He says the treatment of women in the U.S. is comparable to segregation and racism, for which he partially blames religion.

“When they see that the Pope and the Southern Baptist Convention and others say women can’t serve as priests and so forth, equally as men, they, ‘Well, I’ll treat my wife the way I want to because she’s inferior to me. I don’t have any real moral compunction against paying my employees less,’” Carter said. “So women are abused, but men don’t want to really rock the boat because we men benefit from the superiority that we enjoy just like white people did in the segregation days when we benefited from racial deprivation of blacks’ equality.”

Carter said he wrote to the pope about his concerns, and was hopeful about the response.

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