The Friends’ testimony on equality is rooted in the holy expectation that there is that of God in everyone, including adversaries and people from widely different stations, life experiences, and religious persuasions. All must therefore be treated with integrity and respect. The conviction that each person is equally a child of God opened the way for women to be leaders in the Religious Society of Friends: both women and men ministered in Friends Meetings from earliest days.
The testimony of equality does not imply that all individuals in a particular role are the same; it recognizes that the same measure of God’s grace is available to everyone.
Before Friends became pacifists, they were dismissed from the army for refusing to treat officers as superior. George Fox [the founder of Quakerism] and other early Friends demonstrated their conviction that all persons were of equal worth by refusing to take off their hats to those who claimed higher rank, and by addressing everyone with the singular “thou” (or “thee” in America) rather than the honorific plural “you.”
Friends recognize that unjust inequities persist throughout society, and that difficult work remains to rid ourselves and the Religious Society of Friends from prejudice and inequitable treatment based upon gender, class, race, age, sexual orientation, physical attributes, or other categorizations. Both in the public realm — where Friends may “speak truth to power” — and in intimate familial contexts, Friends’ principles require witness against injustice and inequality wherever it exists.
Source: Excerpted from Pacific Yearly Meeting, Faith and Practice, Equality Testimony, 2001