On Wednesday, President Obama spoke out in support of gay marriage, so yesterday it was the turn of black pastors to speak out against the president. From Maryland to Ohio, from Wisconsin to Texas, reporters at media outlets across the nation fanned out with one clear goal in mind: Find black pastors who will oppose Obama’s historic pronouncement.
But while many pastors said they remain steadfast in their opposition to gay marriage and they expressed disappointment at the stance taken by Obama, they were not willing to abandon him in his re-election campaign.
“I absolutely, vehemently disagree with the president,” Jamal Bryant, pastor of Baltimore’s Empowerment Temple, said on the Tom Joyner Morning Show. “Marriage is the original institution of the church… It is the template that we start off with.”
But Bryant was quick to add that on most other issues, Obama is a much better choice than Republican Mitt Romney—and Bryant would like to see Obama returned to the White House.
The message was the same coming from one of New Jersey’s top black pastors, Rev. Reginald Jackson of St. Matthew AME Church in Orange and the head of the state’s Black Ministers Council.
“Clearly, the overwhelming majority of black clergy and churches oppose gay marriage,” Jackson said in a statement. “For us, this is not a political but a theological issue. More specifically, this is an issue of our faith. From the understanding of most black Christians, marriage is between a man and a woman.”
But while Jackson, an enormously influential voice in the state, said that “many, if not most blacks disagree” with the president’s position, it likely won’t affect his support in the black community come the November election.
“It is one decision of many this president has made. Most blacks, like most Americans, will not make our decision on the basis of one decision,” Jackson said.
Rev. Al Sharpton, political activist and MSNBC television host, said he supports Obama’s decision because it was “about equal rights for all.”
“We cannot be selective with civil rights,” said Sharpton, who has been a passionate supporter of the president on his MSNBC television show, PoliticsNation. “We must support civil rights for everybody or we don’t support them for anyone.”
With such powerful support for Obama in the black community, it would clearly be a risky proposition for black pastors to stand on the pulpit and bash the president for his support of gay marriage. Author and media personality Tavis Smiley discovered how quickly the black community can turn on an Obama critic when he got roundly thrashed several years ago after assailing the president for not doing enough to help the black community.
While Rev. K.Z. Smith of Corinthian Baptist Church in Cincinnati said that he believes Obama’s support for gay marriage is in opposition to the teachings of the Bible, he has no plans to mention it from the pulpit on Sunday—and he doesn’t think the president’s position will change many black votes.