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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Intolerance is ugly and bigotry is uglier.
WEll if figures Sharpton wouldn't take a stand on his own. I commend the pastors that speak out and have their opinion but to withdraw support from someone who doesn't believe like you is wrong. I guess if they said Obama didn't do enough for the country this I can accept.
This should help those who love their fellow man, but don't condone what God has condemned. 1st Corinthians 6:9, "Do not be misled. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men kept for unnatural purposes, nor men who lie with men, nor thieves, nor greedy persons, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God."
bonnie: your book only applies to those who accept it.
seems like an awful lot of people not going to heaven, bonnie. tell me, are we denying adulterers or greedy people civil rights? how about slanderers? drunkards?
Beware Poets – The Koran
From looking at that list I'd say that most pastors, priests, followers, and pretty much everyone is going to be tossed into the Outer Darkness where we can wail on our guitars and gnash our teeth (at least those with dental care).
How about fornicators, Bonnie? are the fornicators being denied civil rights?
My problem with this is that this quote is from the "New Testament", written hundreds of years after Christ died. Question, did you ever play a game called whisper? You get 40 people put the in line and start on one side and whisper a statement to the person next to you. By the time you get to the end of the line the statement always and I mean always is distorted or completely changed.
My point is !!! If you have any brains, figure it out what a couple of hundred years of distortion gets you.
@ midgick: you are wrong on your dates here. 1 Corinthians was written w/in 15-20 years of Jesus' death. Scholars of all stripes agree it is one of the earliest NT books.
And contrary to your "telephone" analogy, in 1 Cor.15 Paul names the names of witnesses – inviting people to check the sources. Ever play telephone where at every step you can say it out loud to everyone & double check the original source?
Midgick, that is why the word of Almighty God is written, not whispered or spoken. It was recorded by faithful men, so that all future generations would have an opportunity to know the truth about God, His Son, Jesus Christ and the coming kingdom (rulership) of God. Only those interested in the truth will read what I suggested and can judge FOR THEMSELVES, as to what is true or not true.
all those interested in learning the truth should listen to you? can you be any more frigging arrogant?
In that case heaven is going to be a very empty place, though a few Budists might make it in.
@Russ:”1 Corinthians was written w/in 15-20 years of Jesus' death. Scholars of all stripes agree it is one of the earliest NT books”.
But Paul is not an eye witness. Everything he says is at least 1 generation old. Paul never met jesus, he only hallucinated about him and that was after his death
@ TR6: did you not read my second paragraph? 1 Cor.15:1-3, he is listing eyewitnesses within (at most) 20 years of Jesus' death. It's an invitation to check the sources. Even if Paul is not a firsthand eyewitness, he is within their lifetime inviting skeptics to check the sources.
The Bible is man made fairy-tales by MEN who with ambitions for POWER, WEALTH, and VIRGINS.
It has been DEBUNKED as FALSE.
Wake-up. It's 2012. Every religion has a limited shelf life. Christianity, Judaism, Muslim, and every other religion will be replaced in time.
Every FALSE "religion" does indeed have a limited shelf life. Those who truly know our Almighty God will remain loyal until the very end........which is coming soon. For all you who mock the Bible, Jesus' teachings, written over 2,000 years ago is proving to be true right now. Read Matthew chapter 24, Romans chapter 1, verses 18-32, and 2nd Peter chapter 3, and then check the newsites for what exactly is happening today this confused generation.
Marley – put down the bong for a few moments today.
Bonnie doesn't realize that she is not going to get into Heaven. Sad, isn't it?
Replaced with what? Your nonsense? Humans have an excellent ability to corrupt themselves. Religion played a key role in establishing standards of conduct. Allowing folks to do whatever they want is never a good idea no matter under what banner you do it.
the very end........which is coming soon. – bonnie
the sky is falling! the sky is falling – chicken litle
notice the similarities?
You know black folk going to vote for Obama regardless of his gay marriage stance. C'mon now.
AMEN!! YOu got that right. President Obama is a great man. TO choose between him or Mitt Romney a man who is evil I have no choice but to vote for President Obama, To cut a child's hair off and commit the crime he did in school is a lot different than a little boy pushing a little girl because of embarassment. Mitt should have been kicked out of the school. That to me is a sign of a deep mental problem. Also criticizing the people's cookies shows another side of him which is questionable and that was just recently.
Why are you listening to black clerics over this issue, Blacks are having more kids out of wed lock than whites, they are also like white, living in sin, but the church's say nothing about having babies without a husband or sitting in church and living in sin, talk about glass houses, and besides the marriages are Cival marriage not religious marriage, what a bunch of hipocrites..
Obama has just opened the gate to Sodom and Gomorrah. Bend down, turn your head up ... now kiss your a– goodbye! The party is over.
Will you kiss the money changers goodbye too
When are you going to realize that the bible is a work of fiction?
President Obama has just shown that it is NOT FOR US Judge!
Any minority or woman who votes for Romney and any GOP candidate should have their head examined. Romney/GOP is a far right party catering to the rich white males and no one else. They may pander to the rest but once in office they will assure a bleak future for anyone who is not at the top. Vote out all right wingers in 2012.
We should recover the recession losses from everyone who voted for Bush twice.
There are some nice racist views represented here. Al Sharpton is to religion what the Pope is to politics.
"“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.”
If you cannot speak to what is right, when you know it is right, then you have no business as pastor to a congregation. Ministry is first and foremost a spiritual calling. It should not be seen as a business proposition, period.
No tax exemptions either.
enlightened thinking individuals live in darkness because the Lord Jesus Christ is the light of the world.
seriously? You are a loyalist to your religious hierarchy...you are no more "in the light" than an atheist.
It's the light that was formed in the center of the Sun a coupla' million years ago, that you are seeing by today
I think that its high time americans call a spade a spade for once lets God's will b done to avoid His wrath
your god's will does not apply to anyone, like me, who does nto believe in your god quite the way that you do.
adaobi: we cannot fear the wrath of a being in which we do not believe. why is that so hard to understand?
"watch others be discriminated against, marginalized, and literally hated in the name of God."
When god found some people lead by Moses were worshipping a golden cow, God open up a crack on the ground and drop them istraight to hell. This is not discriminated....
If you believe in God, then follow his teaching ...or else..
if you are non-believer...who cares.
Right...we certainly don't care what you think.
The butterfly effect, that's why non-believers are concerned.
Not sure when the anti-gay terrorism is going to start, just like your "pro-life" bombers.
Note to andyoo : steve is a pretend American, it is not a citizen of this country, when it says we, it may be referring to its qu-eer bait partner but it sure as hell doesn't speak for America. American dog crap on our sidewalks has more relevance to our country than this foreign pos. There's your sign.
You said, "When god found some people lead by Moses were worshipping a golden cow, God open up a crack on the ground and drop them istraight to hell. This is not discriminated...."
Of course not. Your god can do to his followers whatever he wants.
You said, "If you believe in God, then follow his teaching ...or else.."
True. But if, on the other hand you have more then a couple of brain cells and can string a thought or two together into a coherent argument, you won't need some ancient fairy tale.
Believers are free to be as retarded as they choose. They are free to live their lives according to their myths. You are free not to marry someone you don't want to, even if you love this person. You don't get to force your infantile beliefs on the sane part of society, though.
You said, "if you are non-believer...who cares."
You should. It's the non-believers who are keeping this country from tuning into another Iran or Afghanistan.
What did the Tsunami victims do wrong?
I'm a cracka! Better look out before I do some more crackin, yo!
Obama has taken a sort of qu eer position on this thing.
This country's days are numbered. Why can't we keep religion away from government? MONEY AND VOTES. That's why.
Obama who??? Very sad...where this beautiful Nation is heading???...Just watch and see...toooo many blind people...read...listen...keep your eyes open...no one can't change what the good book says...no one...
No, you can' change what it says, but you can mess around with translations and interpretations ad infinitum. Just put the damn thing away. It's useless as a guide to morality or true spirituality.
Much of it has been changed or omitted over the centuries. And a lot was written centuries after the events, by non-witnesses. Think what people like you would make of recovered copies of Harry Potter, if there was an apocalypse between now and 2184.
"no one can't change what the good book says...no one..."
that is because it is ink on paper
Next on the liberal agenda, the right to marry farm animals!
Have you seen any of those dyk es? Farm animals would be a step up.
Or befriend the Mary Magadalenes of today.
I let Adam try out all the animals already. He had some fun and some bad experiences. So I made a womb-man to be his 'handy' helper! Woot!
Shoot, since Bobby gets to marry Tom, I want to marry the 5 honeys down the street... Why not, we're all consenting adults! And oh yeah... We're in committed. Relationships. I absolutely support that I should get special favors just because of my bedroom choices.
always amazing how fast someone pulls out the beastiality comment. something in your background you trying to cover up?
If folks really took the time to read the Bible, they would see that everything is happening just as it is supposed to –
I think you need to get your head out of the Bible. Your ignorance is showing..
I think you need to get your nose out of American business steve, we don't need your interference and your ignorance in undermining our country. We will take care of US.You can go pound off in a corner for all we care. There's your sign
If you really read the Bible, you'd believe slavery was sanctioned by God...
"Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart." (Ephesians 6:5-6)
Including learning atheism from the stars – Genesis I:14
Prayer changes things.
To each his own... whatever works for you.
Prayer changes things
Amazing so many survive, since all babies are born atheists.
yeah... you end up dumber, with a lot less money, and a lot more kids.
racism is alive and well in the AA pastor community
I have many guy friends that does'nt mean I wanna marry them!
Right...because this opening of rights to marry who you want is going to force you to turn gay....insecure about yourself much?
Then again, George, maybe you do!
Insecure would define a butt in canadian that apparently can't find a conversation in its own country eh steve. Real Canadians would not put up with stevos bull sh it. There's your sign
Unless there's a cross on top of the White House, Biblical arguments have NO place in laws which affect people's taxes, inheritance, and property. If your belief system is based on bringing misery into the lives of others who are not in your church, then that's a sad way to live your life.