Discrimination against women in religious doctrines and in the practice of religion (also in the refusal to admit women as priests) has had a pervasive effect throughout society of maintaining the belief in the inferiority of women, and has become ingrained into civil law over the centuries. It represents a particular distortion of so-called 'traditional' values, particularly sexual morality, which uses the female gender as symbolic of the human lower nature.
In many of the religions throughout the world —conservative Roman Catholic, Evangelical and Pentecostal Protestant, Mormon, Orthodox Jewish and Islam—women are denied the equal opportunity in learning and teaching of religious knowledge, that is available to men. Women cannot be ordained or given positions of leadership in most religions, including the majority of Christian churches. A woman can never be ordained as a Roman Catholic priest. In the case of Judaism, the common starting point of all sects is that the sexes were created differently. Man is seen as endowed with the intellectual capacity to come closer to his creator through study and prayer. Woman, imbued with natural modesty and intuitive understanding, is assigned the task of imitating God's work by procreating. However valued a woman is in the domestic sphere, her role is seen as essentially supportive. Jewish men begin each day with the ritualized prayer thanking God "for not having made me a women". In orthodox Judaism, women can never be rabbis, nor can they mingle with men at prayer in the synagogue.
With discrimination against women in major religious teachings and practices follows discrimination throughout whole societies. In many parts of the world, including numerous U.S. states, health care providers, insurance companies, and pharmacies are denying women their right to basic reproductive healthcare— birth control, emergency contraception, and abortion—on the grounds of religion.