Minister Louis Farrakhan, the Nation of Islam leader who has previously spoken about President Barack Obama in glowing terms, recently rebuked the president's confessed support for same-sex marriage saying he has "sanctioned what the Scriptures forbid."
"Our president just agreed to same-sex marriage," Farrakhan said during a May 27 gathering at the California Convention Center in San Diego. He was referring to Obama's May 9 endorsement of such unions during an interview with ABC News.
The Nation of Islam leader spoke while holding up a May 21 copy of Newsweek magazine with a cover image of President Obama, who is a Christian, with a rainbow halo and the caption "The First Gay President."
"He's the first president that sanctioned what the Scriptures forbid," Farrakhan, 79, said in a grave tone to an audience of African-Americans.
"Now I want to ask a question," he continued while holing up a Bible. "Why is that all you politicians take your oath of office on the Bible? If the book is no good, what the hell are you using it for to take an oath of office to uphold, not the Bible, but the Constitution? But the Constitution comes out of their recognition of the value of this book."
Earlier in his remarks, published on the Nation of Islam's The Final Call website, Farrakhan insisted he was only speaking out in love against what he believes is sin.
"I'm not your enemy. I'm your brother, and I do love you," he said to applause. "I'm not here to make you feel bad because Farrakhan is talking and he may not be that."
The minister continued, "Jesus said if you offend in one thing, you offend in them all. So the fornicator can't look at the lesbian or the homosexual and say I'm better than you. The liar, the thief, the gambler, the pimp, the prostitute, the low-life -- you can't look at those who are gay and lesbian and transgender and say I'm better than you. It's sin. It's sin, according to the standard of God."
Dr. Boyce Watkins, a professor at Syracuse University and founder of Your Black World, lauded Farrakhan for publicly challenging Obama's promotion of same-sex marriage.
Writing in a column Monday, Boyce said he was happy that the Nation of Islam leader "threw his hat in the ring on the gay marriage conversation" for three reasons: "Farrakhan says the things that others are afraid to say; Farrakhan has a point of view that is respected by millions of black Americans; (and) he is not controlled or owned by anyone (at least not anyone in the liberal establishment)."
Since President Obama has come out in support of same-sex marriage, many religious and African-American leaders have expressed concern with what they see as a further attack on traditional marriage.
After the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) re-affirmed support for Obama in light of his gay marriage push, Alveda C. King rebuked the civil rights organization.
The niece of Martin Luther King Jr., who also serves as Senior Pastoral Associate and Director of African-American Outreach for Priests for Life and Gospel of Life Ministries, took the NAACP to task, saying the founders of the civil rights movement did not embrace "the homosexual agenda."
"In the 21st Century, the anti-traditional marriage community is in league with the anti-life community, and together with the NAACP and other sympathizers, they are seeking a world where homosexual marriage and abortion will supposedly set the captives free," King said in a statement.
Members of the African-American Church, the leaders of which have traditionally been outspoken against homosexuality, also have been critical of President Obama's recent revelation, which some observers suggested was actually a confession of his long-held position.
"I am going to do all that I can to influence as many people as possible to think for themselves and allow the God of Christianity and the teachings of Christianity to have more influence in their lives than any person who may be holding any political office, even if that office is the presidency of the United States of America," the Rev. Patrick Wooden told NPR in the days after Obama's ABC News interview.
"This particular decision I find appalling, and I could not disagree with the president more on it," added the senior pastor of the Upper Room Church of God in Christ in North Carolina. Wooden reportedly led campaign efforts in his state to ensure that marriage was defined in heterosexual terms.
Obama, in explaining to ABC News' Robin Roberts his support of same-sex marriage, said that his Christian faith played a part in his decision to embrace what he described as an "equality" issue for gay and lesbian Americans.
"Well you know, I have to tell you, as I've said, I've been going through an evolution on this issue. I've always been adamant that gay and lesbian Americans should be treated fairly and equally," he said, according to a transcript provided by the network.
While noting that "the word marriage was something that evokes very powerful traditions, religious beliefs, and so forth," President Obama added, including the viewpoint of first lady Michelle Obama: "You know, we're both practicing Christians. And obviously this position may be considered to put (us) at odds with the views of others. 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, you know? Treat others the way you'd want to be treated."
Despite the vocal disagreement with President Obama among black Americans, a Washington Post-ABC News poll published last week revealed that 59 percent of African-American voters actually support same-sex marriage. The number, though tentative due to the small number of black voters who participated in the survey, reflects a marked increase from the 41 percent who said they supported such unions in polls taken before Obama expressed the outcome of his "evolution" on the issue.
Farrakhan, who expressed support for Obama early in his 2008 campaign for the presidency, has compared the former Illinois junior senator to Nation of Islam founder Wallace Fard Muhammad, and suggested in a speech years ago that "Barack Obama is like the trumpet that alerts you [that] something new, something better is on the way."
President Obama reportedly fell out of favor with the Nation of Islam leader last year when he sanctioned military intervention in Libya that resulted in the death of dictator Muammar Gaddafi, whom Farrakhan reportedly considered a friend, and who had donated $3 million to the Muslim organization.
Underscoring his belief last Saturday that God never changes and neither does His condemnation of sinful behavior, Farrakhan questioned if what society says was more important than what God has said in the Scriptures.
"The reverend, synagogue leader, Catholic priest -- is this the book that you say you believe in," he questioned, holding up a Bible. "But now you're backing down from an aspect of it because people will get offended?"
"Let me tell you something. If I didn't love you, I would go along with you," he added. "Love sometimes has to rebuke those whom you love, and in rebuking them you're not saying you're better. You're only saying what God has said, that we all have to clean ourselves up to that standard."
In his remarks, titled "Guidance In a Time of Trouble," Farrakhan commented on a variety of topics, including the Middle East, the U.S. education system and his belief that the Mahdi, or the 12th Imam, had already arrived -- an eschatological figure in Islam believed by some to herald the return of Jesus, whom Islam denies was God incarnate.
The Nation of Islam, founded in 1930, honors both Jesus and the faith's founder Muhammad as prophets, holds the Old and New Testaments and the Quran as sacred texts and has an estimated 50,000 members although the organization refuses to officially disclose its numbers. Farrakhan, born Louis Eugene Walcott, has led this splinter group of the African-American socio-political organization since 1978 and has often been presented as a polarizing figure due to his remarks on race relations.