Saturday, February 05, 2005

Amen Corner 

Two weeks ago we noted that Bush had lavished federal money on black churches in an effort to fracture yet another traditionally Democratic voting bloc (with some success; in the last election he increased his share of the black vote by 2% over 2000). Now our venerated colleague Avedon Carol alerts us to an article at The Black Commentator entitled "Bribes + Vouchers = Black Bush Supporters," which charts the progress of the faith-based/voucher-advocacy strategy since its inception at the right-wing Bradley Foundation a decade ago. "[T]he twin lures of faith-based funding and vouchers are irresistible to ministers on the make, many of whom operate – or would like to operate – private church-based schools":
Karl Rove took a keen interest in the Garden State, especially when polls showed a surprising narrowing of the gap between Bush and Kerry. Rove visited the Newark area twice just before the election, and once afterwards, reserving special attention for Black clergy.

On election night, according to Lionel Leach, Director of the NAACP National Voter Fund-NJ, “Bush got about 2900 votes in the Central Ward in Newark, which is 82.6 percent African American, but you look and you see that’s where the majority of churches are.”

Leach is also a member of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) Commission. “New Jersey has the most voter suppression in the country,” he says. The GOP has “done everything possible to suppress the Black and Latino vote.” In what appears on the surface like a kind of political schizophrenia, Republicans use every legal and illegal means available to keep Blacks from voting en masse, yet spend vast sums to gain the overt or covert support of Black ministers . . . .

Today, Republicans offer corrupt ministers billions on condition that they dramatically break from the historical Black Political Consensus and, hopefully, crack the fragile Democratic coalition. The homosexual “threat” is a smokescreen for treachery. For every outraged Black preacher howling that he’s giving up on the Democrats because of the gays, there is a check or the promise of a check.
One hopeful sign, courtesy of our distinguished colleague Rorschach at No Capital:
More than 50 black clergy and theologians from metro Atlanta published a letter recently in the Atlanta Daily World calling on African-American churches to be more sympathetic to the political and spiritual struggles faced by gay men and lesbians.

Alton Pollard III, director of the black church studies program at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University, wrote the letter, which was addressed to Martin Luther King Jr., and intended to counter the area’s growing reputation as “the epicenter of black religious backlash when it comes to issues of human sexuality” . . . .

Pollard finished the letter in January, then sent it to about 100 black clergy in Atlanta, hoping to get about 12 co-signers within the 48-hour deadline to respond, he said. A total of 54 clergy agreed to add their names to the letter.

Dianne Stewart, an assistant professor in the religion and African-American studies departments at Emory, said she signed the letter to be part of “a message that seeks to show how a Christian agenda for justice would be one that seeks to challenge systems and structures that enforce homophobia, heterosexism and sexism.”

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