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Minority pastors courted to push Virginia marriage amendment

“African-American churches and social conservatives have more in common in our belief system than anyone could imagine. We need you to be the voice of marriage in Virginia.”
— Chris Freund, of the Family Foundation, to mostly black and Latino ministers last month at Pat Robertson’s Regent University.

As we’ve said many times here on the Blend, the AmTaliban is making some headway in bringing black pastors on board, if not to vote Republican, to support marriage amendments, playing to the social conservatism in the religious black community. As election day nears and Virginians go to the polls to vote to add discrimination to its constitution, the wingers are out in full force.

Pastors are being buffeted with booklets and DVDs, church bulletin inserts and “pastor packets” detailing what the amendment means and how to explain it to congregations.

Organizers are depending on shared religious beliefs–that gay marriage counters man and woman’s biblical roles, for instance–to break the ice before the Nov. 7 election.

…Blacks comprise up to 18 percent of Virginia’s registered votes. They’re reliable Democratic voters, but many hold views to the right of the party line, said Daniel Simmons, one of two black community activists recently added at Va4Marriage, a pro-amendment campaign of the Family Foundation.

It’s a challenge in some churches because core issues about jobs, crime and health care take precedence over discriminating against gays, but the fundies have no problem trying to buy and market their way into the black church.

The Rev. Allen McFarland, whose Calvary Evangelical Baptist Church in Portsmouth draws 800 worshippers weekly, spoke bluntly of a bigger obstacle: mistrust of white activists who only show up near election time.

“You are not going to get into the African-American community,” McFarland told Freund, who’s white, before the pastor offered $1,000 to help fund more full-time black staff.

Well that’s refreshing outreach, isn’t it? I think this quote really sums up the problem Dems have with this, and why the party’s silence on gay civil equality in the face of such aggressive lobbying by fundies for black votes on this topic is problematic.

“You still have the white/black Sunday morning separation there,” McFarland said. “But when it comes to morality, I think we line up.”

What are the Dems doing to counter this kind of outreach? Nothing, that I can tell. The only tactic I’ve seen is to say how focusing on SSM is a distraction created by the Republicans to take everyone’s eye off of all the failures of the Bush admin — and it’s not only the Dem party doing that, but HRC.

Is the party incapable of multitasking? It cannot attack the administration’s crappy record AND state clearly why the marriage amendments are wrong and provide a statement on what the party specifically supports regarding rights for taxpaying gay citizens? The right wing clearly has no trouble articulating a position.

One can only hope Virginians will vote No on the amendment, but it’s an uphill battle.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding