(CNSNews.com) - "The existing abuse of females is the worst and most pervasive and unaddressed human rights violation on earth," says former President Jimmy Carter, who is making the rounds of various news shows to promote his new book, A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence, and Power.
Carter -- repeating something he's stated previously -- said the abuse is "indirectly" derived "from the fact that religious leaders say that women are inferior in the eyes of God, which is a false interpretation of the Holy Scriptures. But when they see that the pope, and the Southern Baptist Convention and others say that women can't serve as priests and so forth equally with men, they say, 'Well, and I'll treat my wife the way I want to because she's inferior to me.'"
Carter made the remarks in a taped interview with Andrea Mitchell that aired Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press," and he said much the same thing Monday in a live appearance on MSNBC's "Morning Joe."
"Well, the fact is, I happen to be a Christian, and Jesus Christ was a very wonderful leader who never discriminated in any word or action against women," he told MSNBC. ''
"But the writings of St. Paul -- you can selectively take verses out of the Bible and you can testify (about) women not being able to be priests -- so the Catholic Church and the Southern Baptist convention and others quite often say, well, women are not qualified to have an equal role in the service of God as men. And of course, men all over the world take this as a proof that they can abuse their wives, or pay less pay, you know."
Carter said he and his wife Rosalynn left the Southern Baptist Convention when it decided that women must be "subservient" to their husbands and could no longer serve as pastors, priests or even deacons in the church.
"Those kind of things really convinced me that I should change," Carter told NBC's Andrea Mitchell.
Carter said the abuse of women also happens in the Islamic faith as well.
"You know, I've studied very carefully the Koran...and there are very few verses in the Koran that doesn't say men and women are equal, but in local interpretations particularly in remote areas of Africa and so forth, women are horribly abused, with honor killings and with genital mutilation," he told "Morning Joe."
Asked about the abuse of women in Afghanistan, Carter said he doesn't think it's something that can be changed from the outside, regardless of whether the United States leaves troops in that country when combat ends.
"I don't think there's anything the United States or Europe can do to change the policies in Afghanistan."
Carter said the abuse of women is "very bad" in the United States -- "where we discriminate against women grossly every day. And where there are multiple rapes and sexual abuses on the campuses of our great universities and in the military, as you well know." He added that women tend to be paid less than men, and relatively few women end up as CEOs of Fortune 500 companies.
According to Carter, "Human trafficking and slavery is worse now than it was in the 19th century. Citing the State Department, he said 800,000 "slaves" are sold across international borders every year. "And about 100K are sold in the United States -- about 80 percent of whom are women...And so these are the kind of things that go on in our country."
Earlier, he told Andrea Mitchell that leaders of U.S. colleges and the military don't want to admit what is happening in their institutions: "So rapists prevail because they know that they're not going to be reported," he said.