May 13th, 2012
01:07 PM ET
Across country, black pastors weigh in on Obama's same-sex marriage support
By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor
Washington (CNN) - Addressing his large, mostly black congregation on Sunday morning, the Rev. Wallace Charles Smith did not mince words about where he stood on President Barack Obama's newly announced support for same-sex marriage: The church is against it, he said, prompting shouts of "Amen!" from the pews.
And yet Smith hardly issued a full condemnation of the president.
"We may disagree with our president on this one issue," Smith said from the pulpit of the Shiloh Baptist Church in Washington. "But we will keep him lifted up in prayer. ... Pray for President Barack Obama."
And Smith said there were much bigger challenges facing the black community - "larger challenges that we have to struggle with" - bringing his full congregation to its feet, with many more amens.
Days after Obama announced his personal support for same-sex marriage, pastors across the country offered their Sunday-morning opinions on the development, with the words of black pastors - a key base of support for Obama in 2008, that is also largely opposed to gay marriage - carrying special weight in a presidential election year.But black pastors were hardly monolithic in addressing Obama's remarks.
In Baltimore, Emmett Burns, a politically well-connected black minister who said he supported Obama in 2008, held an event at Rising Sun Baptist Church to publicly withdraw support from the president over Obama's same-sex marriage support.
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"I love the president, but I cannot support what he has done," Burns said at the church.
In an interview with CNN, Burns predicted that Obama's support for legalized same-sex marriage would lead to his defeat in November.
The Rev. Calvin Butts, an influential black pastor in New York City, did not endorse Obama's views but denounced those who are ready to "watch others be discriminated against, marginalized, and literally hated in the name of God."
"Our God is love," he said.
And like Smith in Washington, plenty of black ministers talked about distinguishing between opposition to same-sex marriage and views about Obama.
"I don't see how you cannot talk about it," the Rev. Tim McDonald, based in Atlanta, said earlier this week. "I have to. You can say I'm opposed to it (same-sex marriage), but that doesn't mean I'm against the president."
Though African-Americans provided Obama with record support in 2008, they are also significantly more likely to oppose same-sex marriage than are whites. That may be because black Americans are more likely to frequently attend church than white Americans.
A Pew Research Center poll conducted in April found that 49% of African-Americans oppose legalized same-sex marriage, compared with 39% who support it. Among whites, by contrast, Pew found that 47% supported gay marriage, while 43% opposed it.
African-American pastors have been prominent in the movement to ban same-sex marriage. In North Carolina, black leaders helped lead the successful campaign for a constitutional amendment prohibiting gay marriage and domestic partnerships.
In California, 70% of African-Americans supported Prop 8, the 2008 state gay marriage ban, even though 94% of black voters in California backed Obama.
McDonald, who founded a group called the African-American Ministers Leadership Council, says he opposes same-sex marriage, but that he is more concerned about issues such as health care, education and jobs.
But he says more black pastors are talking about same-sex marriage than ever before. "Three years ago, there was not even a conversation about this issue," McDoland says. "There wasn't even an entertainment of a conversation about this."
In Atlanta, at the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church - where Martin Luther King Jr. got his start - the Rev. Ralph Warnock addressed the president's remarks near the end of his sermon.
"The president is entitled to his opinion," Warnock said. "He is the president of the United States, not the pastor of the United States."
Warnock said that there is a place for gays in the church, and that "we don't have to solve this today."
Black churchgoers on Sunday appeared split on same-sex marriage, though many of those opposed to it said they still supported Obama.
"It's a human rights issue, not a gay issue. All people that pay taxes should get ... the same privileges and rights," said Terence Johnson, a congregant at Salem Bible Church in Atlanta.
At Shiloh Baptist in Washington, Shauna King said she does not support same-sex marriage, but that she respects the president's decision on it.
"I think he was very honest in what he was saying and personally he decided to do that," said the 38-year-old mother of two. "As individuals, we all have to make that decision for ourselves."
"I believe it speaks to what America is," she said. "That we all have different views and are respected for our views individually."
Black opposition to same-sex marriage has dropped dramatically in recent years. In 2008, Pew found that 63% of African-Americans opposed gay marriage, 14 percentage points higher than the proportion who expressed opposition this year.
On Friday, a handful of black leaders, including the Rev. Al Sharpton and former NAACP leader Julian Bond, released a letter supporting Obama's position on same-sex marriage but expressing respect for those who disagree.
"The president made clear that his support is for civil marriage for same-sex couples, and he is fully committed to protecting the ability of religious institutions to make their own decisions about their own sacraments," the letter said.
"There will be those who seek to use this issue to divide our community," it continued. "As a people, we cannot afford such division."
But the letter itself was an implicit acknowledgement of discord within the African-American church community on gay marriage.
Black pastors who preach in favor of same-sex marriage know they may pay a price if they take Obama's position, says Bishop Carlton Pearson.
The Chicago-based black minister says he lost his church building and about 6,000 members when he began preaching that gays and lesbians were accepted by God.
"That's the risk that people take," he told CNN. "A lot of preachers actually don't have a theological issue. It's a business decision. They can't afford to lose their parishioners and their parsonages and salaries."
Pearson navigates the tension between the Bible's calls for holiness and justice this way: "I take the Bible seriously, just not literally," he says. "It's more important what Jesus said about God than what the church says about Jesus."
In Obama's interview with ABC this week, in which he announced his personal support for same-sex marriage, the president talked about squaring his decision with his personal religious faith.
"We are both practicing Christians, and obviously this position may be considered to put us at odds with the views of others," Obama said, referring to his wife, Michelle.
"But, you know, when we think about our faith, the thing at root that we think about is, not only Christ sacrificing himself on our behalf, but it's also the Golden Rule," he said. "Treat others the way you would want to be treated."
- CNN’s John Blake, Chris Boyette, Meridith Edwards, Dan Merica and Stephanie Siek contributed to this report.
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.
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So, I think we have all forgotten that this country was created with the intention of having seperation of church and state. Bible huggers get over it. You have a right to your opinion (Freedome of Speech) but you do not have the right to withhold rights from other. Grow up. If Bob marries Joe what does that change in your life? If Bob marries Andrea instead of Joe, what impact does that have on YOU. None. Mind your business and follow the beliefs that you believe in while others follow their own. I heard it best when someone said, "This is why America is in shambles, we always worry about the wrong things."
Exactly so Principle.
Pathetic, unable to think for yourself, lemmings. Good slaves following the word of your masters.
Can't see that good acts have more value than any hate you can spread. Run people over and lie, cheat and steal, but pray it all away on Sunday. Gossip about any and everyone, then Amen it away at church. I see you every morning, with your pin curls and children in the back sear of your Expedition, because you are trying to run me off of the road going 80 in 50 zone because you are late to church.
You really do reap what you sew. Be a good person. Love the sinner, hate the sin. Love thy neighbor. Your Bible doesn't say, "unless" or "until" but you aren't good enough to be free of conditions because you are selfish. "I don't like it so it is bad," you say.
You are full of hate and until you can let go of that hate, you are bound to suffer, all day, every day, eternally. THAT is what it is to be eternally damed and condemned. You are creating the H E double hockey sticks that you are so afraid of and you are living in it every day.
And it is your choice, and has been for every moment. Release yourself from your hate and actually PRACTICE what your little book has been trying to tell you all of this time. LOVE. Respect. Service.
But you can't, can you? That's what I thought.
@n900 mixalot what are you blah blah blah about are you one of those slavacrats agreeing with everything your white liberal master is telling you about the world. Develop a brain and think for yourself and open your eyes and see what is really going on.
The heart of your writing while anpparieg reasonable at first, did not really work perfectly with me after some time. Someplace within the paragraphs you actually were able to make me a believer unfortunately only for a short while. I however have a problem with your leaps in assumptions and one might do well to help fill in all those gaps. In the event that you actually can accomplish that, I would certainly end up being amazed.
From a blackman. Now you all know black slavacrats are indentured servants for the white perverted demonic liberal party. You know they love their white liberal MASTER, to think for themselves, to form their own opinion, to voice their concerns, and to bring black issues to light is not allowed. You know they (slavacracts) must follow protocol and use the chain of white liberal command and it must be approved I must say. Obama has did nothing for blacks since he has been presidet and I must say he is multiracial and he is more attentive to his whiteside. 1 Trillion Dollars in stimulus money and can anybody tell me how much of that went to the inner city infracstructure? Probably none of it or you wouldnt see groups of black people on CNN stampeding to fill out limited section 8 housing. Yep! good ol Obama boy he sure cares about black people. I was blown away when i saw report on CNN Harlem New York with a 55% unemployment rate, isnt that Charlie Rangel district? Ten of your largest city have democratic mayors yet poverty is rampant, yep! Them white liberals love black folk. Crumbling urban schools yet those white liberals shot down the voucher progran giving black parents a chance to send their child to a private school for a better education. Yep! got to love those white liberals they do love you. Forty years, forty years and to the present those loving white liberals control the educational system what is graduating from highschool baffles the mind most cant fill out a job application. Now we have the white liberals saying the bible is nothing more than a fairytale, slowly but showly are controlling religion by removing it out of every aspect of our lives even inside the church. Blacks like sheep mindlessly sheep follow in pursuit of their white sheperd not knowing the cliff is ahead. Keep following it want be long. What issue is more prominent in todays newspapers, talk shows, and the internet, you guess it The Gay Issue where is the Black Issue of poverty, crime in black communities, inferior education, 40% of african-american make up the prison population, and etc.. Hey! those things dont matter to the white liberal the Gay Issue is the only thing that matters. Dems had control of both houses for two years what happened to those white liberals taking care of the black community. WAKE UP BLACK AMERICA FROM YOUR SLUMBER SLEEP FOR YOUR HOUSE IS BURNING.
it is not the presidents responsibility to cater to one race.............He is the President of the United States and that covers all races in our country. Coming from a black man, black people have to make an effort to change their outcome, the President can only show you that you don't have to believe the bs out there. We can over come adversity we can become more than gang members, thugs and victims. we can ascend to the ranks of commander in chief if you make good choices and work hard. black people as a whole have to work together to change the status quo, most believe because we have a black president that we where suppose to step to the front of the line, just because. you are your own enemy, promote education, striving to be better and awareness instead of hate and.
If you oppose liberalism only because it isn't delivering the goods fast enough and yearn for someone who will do liberalism your way, you are missing the larger point. Yes, democrats have run most major cities for decades and a lot of them are in shambles and have been for several decades. So maybe, maybe the problem is not that the democrats aren't shuffling "government", ie taxpayer dollars in fast enough, but that money shoveling isn't the best way to create the opportunities that allow people to help themselves out of poverty. But liberals aren't the only problem. The conservatives and their beloved drug war are taking a clear social problem and making it vastly worse by felonizing even small time dealing, throwing so many people into prison till the "land of the free" has the highest per capita incarceration rate in the world and making those people all but unemployable when they get out. Stop criticizing the gov't just for not being the solution when it is so often itself the problem.
I for one have always thought that Obama has little connection to the Black American history, since his father is from Kenya and so Obama has no historical connection with the Civil Rights struggles and what Black Americans went through from one family, one generation, to the next. That said, I do agree that Obama hasn't made it a priority Black American upward mobility nor the economy. And that is exactly why this is such a slow recovery and so many not only Black Americans but many other ethnic groups are suffering.
Well Hello There Racist.
Glad to see you came out to join the discussion
I do not agree with the President on Gay marriage, I do agree on the Civil Rights issues. God makes and loves us all inspite of ourselves. My disagreement with the President will not prevent me from voting for him. This is only one issue and given the alternatives of voting for the hateful Republicans will only make me more supportive of the President. While many African Americans are annoyed that the President supports Gay Rights, will they be happy when Mitt Romney cut their Soc. Sec. Food Stamps, Medicaid, Planned Parenthood and all the other Social Programs that he says he will cut. We need to wake up and
take notice. The Black Ministers need to make this point as well. We have all sinned, and we are sinning by judging.
WOW. You talk about people judging others, but you just did it. Hypocrisy. How dare you call half the country hateful. God loves them, and many of them love God as well. Their political beliefs are just different due to what they think is better. But don't lump people into a group and call them hateful. Be graceful, understanding, and civil.
I respect your opinion and I hope the majority of the black community feels the same. (just wanted to say something completely out of character for CNN article commentary)
The gay marriage issue IS a civil rights issue. When two people live in a committed relationship for decades and some hospital functionary bars one from visiting the other in the hospital because they can't marry and hence are technically unrelated in the eyes of the law, that is a civil rights issue. When a foreign born gay or lesbian has to leave the country despite being in a committed relationship because they can't marry and get the same benefit of residency that the spouses of hetero Americans use all the time, that's a civil rights issue.
"Wake up" or a real president might come along and get us all off welfare, like Romney. You are right, if I was a free loader leach on society I would be scared of Obama not getting re-elected. Joyce you sum up the whole problem with America's negative image of blacks. Way to go.
Wow, blacks wanted equal rights, but now they are denying them to others.
It's not blacks!! It's churches...black churches, white churches, catholic, protestant, mormon, etc, etc, etc.
seems the blacks should know a thing or two about equality.... after all, they are still fighting for theirs everyday.
No one is being denied their rights.
Every single person has the same right as anyone else to convince someone to marry them.
You just happen to hate the definition of marriage, so you're trying to force your intentionally perverted definition of marriage on others.
Stop trying to use the force of government to force your perversity on others. Have your civil unions, if your state is wicked enough to allow them. If not, move to a more wicked state, where you'd be more comfortable.
Chris, no one is forcing anything onto others. In a better world, marriage would be a wholly private affair and different groups could set it up any way they wish. But so many gov't regulated rights, responsibilities and benefits depend on marital status that it simply is NOT fair to grant some people the right to marry unquestioningly while flatly denying it to others.
All justifications are just that in the light of the truth. Problem is, no one wants to hear it, they just go after whatever they choose that pleases them. It's funny to hear gays talk about how christians shouldn't judge them, and instead they seek acceptance for their sin. Sorry, ain't gonna happen. I don't judge you, but I dont have to embrace your perversion
Don't you have a book burning or something to go to?
So let's take a look at that "perversion." They want to live in monogamous, committed, legally recognized marriages (who immoral). They want to raise their children in a stable legally recognized family....wow, how selfish. They want to serve their country in the military (down right perverse). We should be supporting the God-fearing religious right who are in the courts fighting for control of women's reproductive rights....and defending their pastors for their se x ual illicit acts......and defending the misappropriation of funds. Thank God the President has a different view on what is really perverse.
Blaacks should concentrate on looking after their own children rather than worry about what gay's do.
I would say you are a raciest making that kind of comment. I am white and live in Lilly white Utah where the white children of (mostly) Mormons run everywhere so lets just say people should worry about themselves and get out of everyone else's business.
This is the easiest fix of all time. How about the government stays out of the marriage business? How about any couple can get a civil union? I don't need the government to recognize my marriage. My Church's recognition is enough for me.
The last thing I want is a church involved in any decision that effects my life. How about the government allows marriages for everyone and those marriages are performed always by JP's first and a church second and only when everyone agrees.
@Doobie Doobie Doo-
I agree. That would put an immediate end to this nonsensical debate. Civil rights intact and private religious insti.tutions free to grant marriages as they see fit.
ArmyCSM – that is the way they used to do it in Ireland (not sure if they still do or not). It makes perfect sense to me. Unfortunately the religious right will still be upset because in states where gay marriage is allowed many are being performed by Christian Churches who just happen to disagree with the prejudices of some of their brethren churches.
I believe Doobie's point is that there would be a clear separation between unions granted by the government and those granted by private religious insti.tutions. All members of society could obtain a union sanctioned by the government. Those with religious convictions could, in addition, obtain sanction from their personal religion. No overlap. No conflict.
How about the Government stay out of the union game entirely! No need for it, unless you want them to favor some special interest group over others.
Clean and neat. People or organizations can recognize whatever they want to recognize. Of course, that would remove the Liberals' ability to force others to bow to them, so Liberals would oppose it.
I was right there with you until your "that would remove the Liberals' ability to force others to bow to them" non sequitur...then you just started sounding silly.
Ironic that African American preachers are using the same religious rhetoric to deny gay people their rights, that white slave owners and ministers used to justify slavery and deny African Americans their freedom and rights.
Religion: Denying you your basic human rights for thousands of years.
Well said indeed!
But guess which decision would be justified in God eyes
Any decision that gives people the same equality and the same basic rights as you have would be approved of in any God's eyes
if you don't believe then why would one care in the first place
freedom from religion pleaseeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee
B and Rick Ted Nugent and Rush have you brainwashed, P.S. It is spelled Black.
The sad think about by fellow christians is jesus said he came into the world to save it not condemn it. he came to show people a better way through showing the love of the father. it was through that love that people would want to give up their sin. spreading all this hatred towards the gay community is not helping .in fact if we would understand that they are only looking for the right to love and be loved maybe we cpould be the true love of god as a church
As Christians we are supposed to love everyone, just as Christ does.
There is so much hatred between people, it's no wonder we can't all get along!
All I can say to African Americans who oppose gay marriage is that once upon a time, much of America opposed you. Hopefully, we have all come around or are slowly coming around to leaving people alone to lead their own lives in the manner they choose rather than sitting in a pulpit judging people, often with a level of morality that we/you yourselves can't live up to.
Much of America IS STILL opposed to Black Americans. Being a black american, I still have to worry about being attacked because of my skin color.
truthdefenderp, I too must worry about being attacked because of my white skin color. It goes both ways.
Too many black children are born into poverty and are born to single mothers. We know that there is a correlation between the too. A child that desires education and speaks well is told they are "acting white." I live in Atlanta and know this to be true as I have heard it myself. the culture is broken and the white blame simply doesn't work anymore.
Gay marriage is a civil rights issue and I am confident that the issue will be resolved by the Supremes and soon.
black opinions are laughable when a black person is the subject of the conversation.
Judging from your need to say this to begin with, I'm guessing you're as bad or worse.
blacks must have their own Bibles written by unknown Authors,therefore they have position of their own,not known to whites.
Not all "Black" beliefs and opinions are the same. Yes, there is a problem, but don't throw the baby out with the bath water.
Wow here's what I have to say to that,its a great move might finally let ppl really be truthful to them selves and come out,there has been soo many incidents where pastor's gay,sneaking round with men eventhough they're married(no offense to pastors that may read this),lots of marriages have been broken cus of that,soo maybe this may encourage them to be open nice move obama
I'LL BET THE POPE IS NOT TOO HAPPY!!
Nobody cares what the pope thinks!
ya really who cares what he thinks
blaks don't want gay marriages because there won't be any welfare babies
YOU ARE SO RIGHT.......WILL NOT BE ABLE TO COLLECT THAT WELFARE CHECK FOR WHAT 5,6,7 KIDS!
Read your statistics. It really isn't hard to find. Whites are still the majority on the welfare line. You may be most familiar with statistics in cosmopolitan areas or inner cities but there is a vast wasteland in between and most of those on the dole are still white.
Pure ignorance. People like you are the reason that authoritarian and totalitarian regimes have a leg to stand on. You are obviously not intelligent or responsible enough to live and participate in a democracy if that is truly what you believe.
Ten bucks says that Ruth or someone in her family or circle of friends is collecting - welfare, social security, medicare, medicaid, unemployment - all of those things that people like her consider an evil handout. Evil for everyone else anyway.
Obama is a closet muslim and we all know what their take is on womens rights. He comes up with these crazy statements when he is on one of his cocaine binges.
Stop stealing material from Bill Maher!
Wow. And Rick has his head up his a**.
Rick, even most Republicans have moved on from this folly. Perhaps you didn't get the memo? Perhaps your trailer can't be googled for an address? Or maybe the internet hasn't gotten to your side of the park yet?
Carlton Pearson did not lose his congregation just for his support for gays. His congregation walked, no they ran away when he openly began to refute the Bible and denied that there is a literal place called Hell. His personal mentor, the late Oral Roberts disavowed him as well. His credibility as a Christian minister is shot so his opinion has no value here. Aside from that, most lack people will still vote for Obama no matter what he says.
His credibility is shot with people who disagree with him. Can we have a big who tf cares?
It is immoral to impose your religious superstition on others.
You do not believe in religion because you honestly think it is true, you believe in it because you fear mortality or are seeking meaning in your life. It does not take a genius to figure out all religion is man made, so for humanity's sake, please stop lying to yourself.
Deluding yourself in religion does not change reality. Lying to yourself is probably the worst possible way to try to find meaning.
Religion uses blackmail. Believe what i believe or suffur eternal torment. Although there is no evidence this is true the terrifying idea alone along with the plus of having someone do your thinking for you is hard to pass up for many.