Atlanta alliance forms to counter anti-gay religious rhetoric
By MATT SCHAFER, Southern Voice | Jan 12, 5:17 PM
From the pulpit of Tabernacle Baptist Church on Sunday, Rev. Al Sharpton called out the Mormon Church and other conservative faiths for mobilizing to support Proposition 8 to ban gay marriage in California while refusing to be as involved in any other social concerns.
“It amazes me when I looked at California and saw churches that had nothing to say about police brutality, nothing to say when a young black boy was shot while he was wearing police handcuffs, nothing to say when the they overturned affirmative action, nothing to say when people were being delegated into poverty, yet they were organizing and mobilizing to stop consenting adults from choosing their life partners,” Sharpton told a packed audience on Jan. 11.
“There is something immoral and sick about using all of that power to not end brutality and poverty, but to break into people’s bedrooms and claim that God sent you,” Sharpton added.
Sharpton came to Atlanta to celebrate the launch of the Alliance of Affirming Faith-Based Organizations. Started by Rev. Dennis Meredith, who recently came out as bisexual, the Alliance includes Dr. Kenneth Samuel, pastor of Victory for the World Church; Rev. Paul Graetz of First Metropolitan Community Church; Rev. Geoffrey Hoare of All Saints Episcopal Church; and Rabbi Joshua Lesser of Congregation Bet Haverim.
During the First Annual Human Rights Ecumenical Service to launch the Alliance, Meredith laid out his vision for the new organization. The service for human rights will be held annually at a different church in Atlanta each year. Sharpton will serve as the national face of the organization and help to recruit new members, Meredith explained.
“We’re going to be the voice for those who cannot speak for themselves,” Meredith said. “If we have to go to a high school, we’ll go to a high school. If we have to go to a college, we’ll go to a college. … Somewhere there has to be a religious voice to counter the other religious voices that preach intolerance.”
Meredith said he hopes to raise enough money to hire an executive director who could see to the day-to-day operations of the Alliance while working to be a force for change.
In his remarks, Samuel preached against the idea that civil rights should not include gay rights.
“Martin Luther King Jr. lead a broad-based coalition, and those who claim that civil rights belong exclusively to black folks don’t know the history,” Samuel said.
“[King] used a methodology from India… brought to him by a black gay man, by the way, named Bayard Rustin. Even the song ‘We Shall Overcome’ was written by a white German, so I don’t know why in the world black folks think we have an exclusive claim to civil rights.”
Sharpton called out ministers who speak out against politically popular causes, but don’t have the courage to live their convictions.
“I am tired of seeing ministers who will preach homophobia by day, and then after they’re preaching, when the lights are off they go cruising for trade,” Sharpton said, his words generating a roar of response from the crowd.
He continued in his refrain that speaking out in support of Proposition 8 while remaining silent on issues like homelessness and poverty was an untenable position.
“We know you’re not preaching the Bible, because if you were preaching the Bible we would have heard from you,” Sharpton said. “We would have heard from you when people were starving in California, when they deregulated the economy and crashed Wall Street you had nothing to say. When [alleged Ponzi schemer Bernie] Madoff made off with the money, you had nothing to say. When Bush took us to war chasing weapons of mass destruction that weren’t there you had nothing to say. … But all of a sudden when Proposition 8 came out you had so much to say, but since you stepped in the rain, we gonna step in the rain with you.”