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Black Clergy Urge U.S. Congregants Not to Vote – Jaclyn O'Laughlin's Multimedia Portfolio

Jaclyn O'Laughlin's Multimedia Portfolio

This is a collection of material I created as a multimedia journalism graduate student and during my career as a reporter and photographer covering national and international news.

Black Clergy Urge U.S. Congregants Not to Vote

In 2008, Obama won 95-percent of the black vote in the United States. This election cycle could prove more difficult than ever for either candidate to gain black voters since some clergy have been urging members of their congregations to not cast a vote for either party in November.

Today, Reverend William Dwight McKissic, who is the senior pastor of the Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas, wrote in a blog post that he finds both President Barack Obama and Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney “totally unacceptable.”

In the post that he titled, “A Right to Vote Is Not a Requirement to Vote,” he stated “The bad news is…come November 7, this country will have either reelected a man and in effect endorsed a platform that affirms same-sex marriage or will have elected a President who for the first time in American history ascribes to a ‘Bible’ that teaches that ‘blackness of skin’ is a curse.”

But, he also added that “God will still be God and His kingdom will still rule over all” and that he will respect whichever candidate does ultimately become elected.

While McKissic’s comments could signal a divide amongst African-American voters, many black church leaders disagree with McKissic’s viewpoint, including Reverend Anthony Evans, who is the president of the National Black Church Initiative.

“We disagree with all the clergy who are asking people to sit this one out, because they disagree with the President on same sex marriage or disagree with Romney and his Mormonism,” he said in a phone interview today.

Derek Turner, a spokesman for the NAACP, also said the organization is urging citizens to vote and that people “fought long and hard and for their lives to get the privilege to vote.”

Obama’s announcement in May that he supported same-sex marriage caused an uproar throughout the country and within the black Christian community, including from the Coalition of African-American Pastors (CAAP), which is led by Rev. William Owens of Memphis.

Owens recently publicly denounced Obama’s decision at a press conference in Washington DC, saying that the President was taking for granted that the black community is “in his pocket.” He also started a “Commitment to Traditional Marriage Pledge,” in defiance of Obama’s backing of the gay community.

But, Reverend William Barber II, the North Carolina NAACP state conference president, said the opposition to Obama’s political stance is not the first disagreement within the African-American community, and that many of the black clergy who are speaking out against Obama were “anti-President Obama before this year.”

“From a media standpoint you have to understand that the African American community is not monolithic,” he said. “There were ministers who actually stood up against Martin Luther King in Montgomery, and there were ministers during slavery time that preached it was okay to be a slave.”

Reverend Amos Brown, who studied under Dr. Martin Luther King, said that the same-sex marriage debate is a “non-issue” and that he won’t tell people how to live their personal lives, which is “between themselves, their conscience and their God.”

“The black community must wise up to the fact that all this brew ha-ha about marriage equality is a red herring to divert our focus and attention away from the things that really matter, such as Pell Grants for our children so our children can get a higher education, better public schools, equality, health care and public safety for our people,” he said.

The National Urban League Policy Institute recently released a study indicating that if fewer African-American voters turn out to the polls in the 2012 election could have a detrimental effect on Obama in swing states, such as Virginia, Ohio and North Carolina.

Both campaigns have been making a big push to register voters during the past few months, and Evans said it is going to be a very difficult election for Obama in a time when every single vote matters, mainly due to high black unemployment figures, many are against the war in Afghanistan, and some in the black community disagree with his stance on same-sex marriage.

But, regardless, he admitted that his organization is “urging all our members to vote.”

Both the Obama and Romney campaigns did not respond before the article was published to explain their efforts in gaining black voters. But, yesterday the Obama campaign announced a new initiative called “People of Faith for Obama,” which includes a video and insight for supporters and potential voters into his Christian values.

Ross Dixon, vice-chairman for the economic committee for the Concerned Black Clergy of Metropolitan Atlanta, Inc., said voters need to decide which viewpoint to take on the same-sex marriage debate, either a constitutional stance agreeing that there should be marriage equality or a biblical perspective where they think marriage should be between a man and a woman.

“We think of this as more of wedge by Republicans to keep the black clergy in confusion and at the end of the day we see blacks supporting Obama 100-percent,” he said.

 

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