COLUMBIA, S.C. (BP)–Divisions within the Democratic Party between homosexual activists and conservative black religious voters were put on display in recent days when the appearance of a gospel music singer at a Barack Obama event sparked a controversy.
The mini-political storm began Oct. 16 when the Obama presidential campaign announced that Grammy-award winning Christian singer Donnie McClurkin would appear at an Oct. 28 Obama-sponsored gospel concert in Columbia, S.C. That caused an uproar within the homosexual community because McClurkin says his faith freed him from homosexual temptations he had had for approximately 20 years. He also has been open in his belief that homosexuality is outside God’s will.
Homosexual activists, including Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solomonese, urged Obama to pull McClurkin from the event. The concert was viewed as critical to gathering support from the state’s black voters, and McClurkin is black.
In the end, Obama met those activists halfway, leaving McClurkin in the program but adding an openly homosexual pastor, Andy Sidden, to the lineup. Sidden is pastor of Garden of Grace United Church of Christ in Columbia.
Obama also issued a statement, saying he believes “gays and lesbians are our brothers and sisters” and that he has spoken to “African-American religious leaders about the need to overcome the homophobia” in that community. The statement was posted on the so-called “Obama Pride” homosexual section of his website.
“I strongly believe that African Americans and the LGBT community must stand together in the fight for equal rights,” he said. “And so I strongly disagree with Reverend McClurkin’s views and will continue to fight for these rights as President of the United States to ensure that America is a country that spreads tolerance instead of division.”
Obama also had a conference call with Solomonese, although the HRC president was not exactly pleased with the end result.
“I spoke with Senator Barack Obama today and expressed to him our community’s disappointment for his decision to continue to remain associated with Reverend McClurkin, an anti-gay preacher who states the need to ‘break the curse of homosexuality,'” Solomonese said in a statement.
“There is no gospel in Donnie McClurkin’s message for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people and their allies. That’s a message that certainly doesn’t belong on any presidential candidate’s stage.”
McClurkin, of course, disagreed, and stated as much during the rally, which drew more than 3,000 people, according to The Washington Post’s election blog. In addition to being a gospel singer he also serves as pastor of Perfecting Faith Church in New York.
“Don’t call me a bigot or anti-gay,’ Don’t call me a homophobe, because I love everybody…. Let me tell you something, the grace of God is given to all men,” he was quoted as telling the audience to loud applause.
About 20 homosexual people protested outside, the blog said.
The dustup has been a headache for Obama, who is performing a balancing act by courting both the homosexual community and religious black voters, whose views on homosexuality tend to be conservative. In fact, The Post’s blog reported that when people requested tickets to the event, they specifically wanted to “make sure McClurkin was still coming.”
Sidden delivered the event’s opening prayer, praying for the coming together of all people, including those of a different “sexual orientation,” The Post’s blog said. Obama was not at the event but spoke via video.
Chicago Sun-Times columnist Deborah Douglas came to McClurkin’s defense, saying homosexual activists crossed the line.
“Despite what gay activists insist, believing the Bible’s admonitions against homosexuality does not make Christians homophobic. It is not an either/or proposition,” she wrote in an Oct. 27 column. “… Ultimately, those who denigrated McClurkin and Obama (who says he does not hold the singer’s views) were really condemning people of faith.”
BROWNBACK MEETS WITH GIULIANI — U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback met with Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani Oct. 25, presumably to talk about the differences between the two men. Brownback is pro-life and a former GOP candidate who dropped out, mostly because of low poll numbers. Giuliani, who requested the Washington meeting, is pro-choice.
“I’m much more comfortable,” Brownback said after the meeting, referring to Giuliani’s position on abortion, the Associated Press reported. “Justices are key. He’s stated publicly many times about his support for strict constructionists like, I believe he said Roberts. John Roberts is a personal friend.”
A Brownback endorsement of Giuliani would shock social conservatives, who view Brownback as a champion of pro-life values.
“I believe that the person that’s going to lead the party will be somebody that is pro-growth and pro-life,” he said at an Oct. 9 debate. “I think these are two pivotal, key foundation issues that this country needs to stand for.”
CHANGE OF ATTITUDE ON SCHIAVO — More than two years after Republicans in Washington led the charge to keep Terri Schiavo alive, the leading GOP presidential candidates say they have doubts as to the way their party handled the situation, The Boston Globe reported Oct. 25. Schiavo is the Florida disabled woman who died after her feeding tube was pulled.
Mitt Romney has called the decision of Congress to get involved a mistake. Fred Thompson said he is “uncomfortable” with Congress’ actions, while Rudy Giuliani has called it a family matter. Mike Huckabee months ago said, “I wasn’t sure how the federal government had a role in all that,” while John McCain — who supported Congress’ actions at the time — now says legislators “acted too hastily.”
Bobby Schindler, Schiavo’s brother, says he is writing the candidates to express his concern.
“I want to personally talk with them about Terri’s case,” he told The Globe. “They need to be fully informed. There obviously exists a lot of confusion about my sister’s situation.”
Michael Foust is assistant editor of Baptist Press.