No faith community knows better than the Black Church how religion-based bigotry shapes prejudicial attitudes many white Americans once held toward African Americans in this country.
Religious texts have been interpreted to justify some of this countryâ€™s worst crimes against our community, resulting in the legality of slavery, the lynching of black boys and men - one of which this nation will never forget: 15-year-old Emmett Till - and the prohibition of interracial marriage.
As African Americans, we continue to experience the harm that religion-based bigotry causes, especially concerning the civil rights issue of same-sex marriage.
I am afraid that the civil rights issues concerning same-sex marriage as it affects all African American families - straight and gay alike - may very well be co-opted again by several national white anti-gay Christian groups and ministers, like just this recently by Rev. Jim Garlow of Skyline Wesleyan Church in La Mesa, California who, â€ś thanked African-Americans for saving America from the bondage of gay marriage.â€ť
What is Garlow referring to?
His recent manipulative and exploitative campaign of thanking African Americans for the passing of Proposition 8.
And in Garlow doing so, he is race-baiting a sector of Californiaâ€™s Christian conservatives who comprise of just 6.2 percent of the stateâ€™s overall population.
In 2008 Garlow was instrumental in promoting religion-based bigotry in the Prop 8 campaign and today on a much broader national scale as part of an organized effort to revitalize the religious right and its opposition to marriage equality. Garlow and a number of national white anti-gay Christian groups are once again soliciting African American faith communities to join them in an effort to bring immense harm to LGBT people â€“ and society at large from its brand of socially divisive politics.
If you donâ€™t understand just how harmful Garlowâ€™s message is to LGBT African Americans â€“ and all LGBT people â€“ consider how it feels to be told your stateâ€™s constitution will now proscribe that there is something about your person that is so awful and flawed that you donâ€™t deserve a fundamental freedom that others enjoy.
But Jim Garlowâ€™s new-found appreciation of African-American community is disingenious considering his and the Religious Rightâ€™s irrefutable embrace of divisive and racist politics.
For example, the Religious Right espousal of prejudice toward African Americans is seen in a recent comment by N.C. Republican Senator Jim Forrester who has introduced an anti-gay marriage bill.
â€śSlick city lawyers and homosexual lobbies and African American lobbies are running ,â€ť stated in the Statesville Record and Landmark. Forrester is supportive of Christian Action League of North Carolina, an anti-gay religious organization born of Southern Baptist advocacy.
So why have so many of our African American ministers, who voted on Proposition 8 joined with national white anti-gay Christian groups? And these are some of the same ministers who profess to have marched with Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Many national white anti-gay Christian groups have and continue to woo cash-strapped African American churches to their anti-gay crusade under the guise of protecting black civil rights. But the truth is, they are really engaged in a broad anti-civil rights agenda thatâ€™s is harmful to African-Americans.
When Bushâ€™s presidential campaign appeal to African Americans was that the Republican Party is the â€śparty of Lincoln,â€ť African American numbers grew, and white conservative Christian organizations craftily tapped into the solidly black Democratic voting bloc by drawing cash-strapped black churches into their sphere. And these organizations doled out big bucks to promote an anti-gay marriage agenda targeted to win black voters in 2004.
How they are doling out money to sponsor urban anti-violence programs operating out of black Christian churches.
As the nation commemorates the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War this week, I am reminded that the fight for marriage equality in the U.S. is similarly to my ancestorsâ€™ fight for freedom.
In their day, before the Civil War in 1861, the U.S. consisted of 19 free states and 15 slave states. As a matter of fact, in the 2004 presidential race between John Kerry and George Bush where marriage equality was a hot-button issue, the election map results between Kerryâ€™s blues states and Bushâ€™s red states corresponded to the pre-civil war free states and slave states, respectively.
As an African American lesbian, I thank God that I am not in slavery. But I am certainly in a civil war with Garlow and national white anti-gay Christian groups and ministers who are now drumming up a manipulative and exploitative campaign to thank Christian conservative African-Americans for saving America from the â€śbondage of gay marriage.â€ť
Whereas President Lincoln acted on behalf of my ancestorâ€™s civil rights, I now need the Black Church to act on mine.