What does Buddhism teach about issues such as homosexuality and sex outside of marriage? Most religions have rigid, elaborate rules about sexual conduct. Buddhists have the Third Precept -- in Pali, Kamesu micchacara veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami -- which is most commonly translated "Do not indulge in sexual misconduct." However, for laypeople, the early scriptures are hazy about what constitutes "sexual misconduct."
The U.S. has struggled with the issue of abortion for many years without coming to consensus. We need a fresh perspective, and I believe the Buddhist view of the abortion issue may provide one.
Buddhism does consider abortion to be the taking of a human life. At the same time, Buddhists generally are reluctant to intervene in a woman's personal decision to terminate a pregnancy. Buddhism may discourage abortion, but it also discourages imposing rigid moral absolutes.
See also "Election 2008: Abortion and the Middle Way."
Buddhist women, including nuns, have faced harsh discrimination by Buddhist institutions in Asia for centuries. There is gender inequality in most of the world's religions, of course, but that's no excuse. Is sexism intrinsic to Buddhism, or did Buddhist institutions absorb sexism from Asian culture? Can Buddhism treat women as equals, and remain Buddhism?
"Wall of separation of church and state" is a metaphor coined by Thomas Jefferson to explain the religion clauses of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The concept behind the phrase has been controversial for more than two centuries. Many religious people argue that it is hostile to religion. But I argue that separation of church and state is good for religion.
The Buddhist Approach to morality avoids absolutes and rigid commandments. Instead, Buddhists are encouraged to weigh and analyze situations to come to their own decisions about what is moral.