Black Pastors Meet in Va. to Discuss Support for Obama

A group of black pastors in Virginia held a meeting to discuss how to encourage their congregations to vote for President Barack Obama.

Around two dozen clergy from various churches in the area met for two hours on Saturday in Chesapeake, discussing possible ideas for motivating support for Obama among their congregations. "We are concerned that many of our congregants are developing an aversion to supporting the president at the polls," read the invite email, which was sent out last month.

The major concern among the clergy was that Obama's support for same-sex marriage would prompt many African Americans to refuse to vote for Obama come November.

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Since President Obama announced that he had changed his position on same-sex marriage from opposition to support, many black pastors have stated their opposition to voting for Obama in the 2012 presidential election.

In early August, the Coalition of African-American Pastors announced the launch of a "Mandate for Marriage" effort, which involved a petition to gather the signatures of people pledging to support traditional marriage.

The National Black Church Initiative, a nationwide organization led by the Rev. Anthony Evans, boasted of having had several thousand volunteers in Maryland alone who were determined not only to vote for striking down the state's recently passed same-sex marriage law but also against President Obama's re-election effort.

"These 8,000 volunteers are committed to defeating same-sex marriage and to defeating any candidate who supports same-sex marriage," said Evans in an earlier interview with CP. "So when they go to the polls, they will go down the list after voting against same-sex marriage just to vote against any candidate and that includes President Obama."

Evans explained that while he and his organization are Democrats, they nevertheless do not intend to vote for the president. In addition to Obama's support for same-sex marriage, Evans also took issue with Obama's "pro-war" foreign policy positions and his failure to reduce black unemployment.

Other prominent black clergy, like Presiding Bishop Charles H. Ellis III of the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World (PAW), continued to support Obama in spite of his endorsement of same-sex marriage.

"I am diametrically opposed to his stance, but at the end of the day I kind of understand where he's coming from, because he is what I am not," said Ellis, who spoke to CP from the PAW 2012 International Summer Convention in New Orleans.

"He is the president of the United States. I am the pastor of a church, and the leader of a religious organization. He put his hand on the Bible and swore to uphold the Constitution of the United States, and I am thankful that ... he must be considerate of everyone's belief and everyone's concerns."

While the black clergy who met in Chesapeake last weekend hope to encourage support for Obama, they have made it clear to media that they seek to do so with respect to church and state barriers regarding elections.

"We can't tell people who to vote for, but we can certainly point out the differences," said the Rev. Lin Hill, associate minister of Bethany Baptist Church, to The Washington Post.

Barry W. Lynn, executive director for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, told The Christian Post that "predominantly African-American churches are no more likely to engage in illegal electioneering than predominantly white churches."

"Americans United has filed several complaints with the IRS about electioneering at predominantly black churches and church groups over the years," said Lynn. "In the main, I believe most pastors, no matter what their race or political affiliation, understand what the law says, and they follow it."

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