Saturday, August 11, 2012

Black Clergy Group Opposes Pres. Obama on Gay Marriage

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A group of Black pastors held a press conference Tuesday opposing President Obama’s position of same-sex marriage. The Coalition of African American Pastors (CAAP) called the President’s stance “disgraceful” and has launched a marriage petition in a nation-wide campaign to rallying African Americans to withdraw support from the President. In May, President Obama announced that he supports same -sex marriage- and this year’s Democratic National Convention; gay marriage language will be included in the party platform.

Rev. William Owens, President and Founder of the Coalition of African-American Pastors, believes that President Obama takes the vote of the black community for granted and that he is putting the interests of his gay supporters ahead of the religious beliefs of his African-American backers.
A recent poll conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found that 47% of whites support gay marriage compared to 39% of blacks.
President Obama's attitudes towards gay marriage has evolved since he came to the White House. He originally supported civil unions, not same sex marriage. Then, in May, he told ABC News that he supported gay marriage and would announce his position during the Democratic National Convention in early September. Recently, a draft committee approved a gay marriage plank to be included in the party platform.

Updated: Tuesday, July 31, 2012 at 1:55pm (ET)
Posted at 01:36 PM ET, 08/06/2012

“Mr. President, I’m not going to stand with you, and we have thousands of others across this country that are not going to stand with you with this foolishness [about legalizing gay marriage. ...] For the president to bow to the money, as Judas did for Jesus Christ, is a disgrace, and we’re ashamed. [...] We feel Mr. Obama because of the money has bowed to the money people, the homosexual community. We’re the ones who put him where he is. Where was the gay community when he was running for president? The Civil Rights Movement opened the door for him to become president. At this point he’s pandering to the homosexual community. He’s forgotten where he came from, forgotten who put him there.”
During a press conference Tuesday, the Rev. William Owens, founder and president of the Coalition of African-American Pastors, announced a new campaign against President Obama due to his stance on same-sex marriage.
Read more in the Faith 2012 Quote Archives.

President Obama speaks at an Aug. 1 campaign event in Akron, Ohio. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais - AP)

By Georgetown/On Faith  |  01:36 PM ET, 08/06/2012 

Black churches split over gay marriage and Obama
By Adelle M. Banks| Religion News ServicePublished: August 7
At Charity Missionary Baptist Church in North Charleston, S.C., the Rev. Nelson B. Rivers III supports and follows his African-American congregation’s policy: They will only conduct marriages between one man and one woman.
But the vice president of the NAACP also backed his civil rights organization’s recent statement supporting “marriage equality.”“We see no conflict in that,” Rivers said, “because I am the leader of the r-i-t-e at my church, the rites, but I’m also a strong advocate of the r-i-g-h-t-s of my members.”
President Obama’s support for gay marriage, followed quickly by the NAACP’s, has put some black clergy in a bind, torn between their political loyalties and their religious beliefs. For some, like Rivers, it’s been a both/and proposition, while others say they can support the president without endorsing his position on gay marriage.But the issue has highlighted that the black church has never been monolithic. The black church’s response is further complicated by the fact that people in the pew may not always go along with what pastors in the pulpit preach.
“You’ve got to balance religious convictions with all of your other interests, your racial interests, your economic interests,” said Andra Gillespie, an associate professor of politics at Emory University who studies African-American politics.
Most blacks still prioritize their rights as African-Americans and economic issues over social issues, she said.
Drawing the same distinction as Rivers, the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church issued a statement at its recent quadrennial meeting declaring that its churches cannot perform same-sex rituals. But it also noted that while it differed with Obama on gay marriage, his positions on health care and student loans are “consistent with the interests of our congregant members.”
“We do not believe in same-sex marriage but we do not believe that’s the only issue,” explained AME Zion Bishop Darryl Starnes. “There is more in the scriptures about treating the poor right and championing the cause of the oppressed than some of these other issues.”
Likewise, the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World has said it is “in conflict” with the president’s stance but applauds Obama for “his many achievements in improving the quality of life for all Americans.”
Overall, African-Americans remain one of the groups most opposed to gay marriage: 51 percent are opposed, while 40 percent support it, according to a recent poll by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. That support, however, has edged up from 26 percent just four years ago. Among black Protestants, opposition is slightly higher, at 54 percent.
Pew researchers said Obama’s support hasn’t noticeably shifted opinion in either direction, but some smaller groups are seeking to galvanize lingering black skepticism over gay marriage to make it a wedge issue for African-American voters this November.
“I would hope that the president would become wise, come to his senses and know that he has made a mistake,” said the Rev. William Owens, president of the fledgling Coalition of African-American Pastors, at a recent National Press Club news conference.
His group is circulating an online petition to ask Obama to “repudiate his assertion that gay marriage is a civil right.”
Still others, including the Washington-based group Many Voices, are working to reshape the notion that all black churches are against gay rights. Rather, many clergy are thinking carefully about their stance, said the Rev. Cedric Harmon, co-director of the three-year-old nonprofit.
“They’re weighing this out; they’re considering who they know, what they believe,” he said. “They don’t want to be mean. They don’t want to be hateful.”
Rivers said while his church doesn’t sanction same-sex ceremonies, another across town might conduct them. If gay members were to request such a service from him, he said he would recommend they find such a congregation for a ceremony because it is their right to have one.
“On the issues of justice, fairness and equality and the prophetic role of clergy and standing up for what is right, there is much consensus,” he said. “On the other issues, how you interpret doctrine, that’s up to your church.”
Anti-Obama black pastors group has deep conservative ties, records show

By Aamer Madhani| Religion News ServicePublished: August 10

Since the Rev. William Owens launched his national campaign in May calling on African-Americans to withdraw their support of President Obama because of his stance on gay marriage, he has claimed the backing of 3,700 black clergy and touted his organization as predominantly Democratic.
But Owens and his group, the Coalition of African-American Pastors, are drawing criticism from black leaders and the political left who note Owens’ long-standing ties with GOP politicians. They charge CAAP misrepresents itself as a nonpartisan grass-roots organization when it is actually backed financially by right-leaning conservative groups.
“He is the poster person of conservative evangelicals ... who are trying to use this as an emotional wedge issue to divide the black community,” said the Rev. Amos Brown, pastor of the Third Baptist Church in San Francisco and a protege of the civil rights leader Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
Owens has become an outspoken critic of Obama since the president announced in May that he was switching his position on gay marriage. The pastor has railed against Obama in cable news network interviews and has held a series of news conferences warning that Obama is in danger of losing black voters’ support.
He has also vowed to collect 100,000 churchgoers’ signatures in support of “traditional” marriage and plans to hold an Aug. 16 rally in Memphis, his hometown, to focus attention on the issue. “We will see that the black community is informed that the president is taking them for granted while pandering to the gay community,” he said last week.
The coalition describes itself on its website as a “nonpartisan group of truthfully mostly Democrats.” But interviews and a review of tax documents reveal deep connections with the right:

  • Owens was appointed this year as the African-American liaison for the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), a Washington-based group opposed to same-sex marriage that has endorsed Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
  •  Frank Cannon, head of the American Principles Project, a group opposed to same-sex marriage, confirms his group’s political action fund is paying public relations firm Shirley & Banister to assist CAAP’s communications strategy.
  • CAAP received loans totaling $26,000 in 2004 from the conservative Family Research Council, American Family Association and Mississippi Tea Party activist Ed Holliday, according to its IRS filings.
Owens, who didn’t respond to requests for comment, endorsed 2008 GOP presidential contender Mike Huckabee and Ohio GOP gubernatorial candidate Ken Blackwell.
“CAAP bears all the hallmarks of a front group,” said Michael Keegan of the liberal People for the American Way. “Owens presents himself and his group as non-partisan or, if anything, leaning in the direction of the Democrats. That makes him more useful to religious-right groups and easier to book on cable news.”
NOM set out to find African-American spokespeople to develop “a media campaign around their objection to gay marriage as a civil right” and “provoke the gay marriage base into ... denouncing these spokesmen and women as bigots,” according to internal documents unveiled earlier this year in a Maine lawsuit.
Maggie Gallagher, co-founder of NOM, called the language in the internal documents “regrettable” but denied that the group’s alliance with Owens reflects a wedge strategy. “The belief that this is somehow a front group, I think, is unfair to the majority of black pastors that have appeared with Rev. Owens.”
Polls show black voters are deeply divided on gay marriage. Still, “this idea that there is going to be black voters coming out against a candidate or coalescing for a candidate on one issue is simply not true,” said the Rev. William Barber, president of the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP.

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