Philadelphia, PA – A coalition of African American pastors spoke out today against a state judge’s refusal to halt the implementation of Pennsylvania’s new voter ID law, a move that could put low-income, elderly, minority and student voters at risk of disenfranchisement in November’s election.
Members of the African American Ministers Leadership Council, a program of People For the American Way Foundation, said that the decision not to stay the voter ID law could suppress the votes of those who have traditionally struggled to exercise their right to vote.
“The purpose of this law has been clear from the beginning,” said Rev. Michael Couch of Berachah Baptist Church in Philadelphia. “It was meant to keep African Americans, students, and other traditionally suppressed communities from exercising our hard-won right to vote. Even the law’s supporters have admitted that there is absolutely no evidence of in-person voter fraud in Pennsylvania. Instead, this law is a purely political attempt to disenfranchise citizens who have every right to vote. I am dismayed at today’s decision and hope that as this case moves through the courts, our judges recognize the ugly intent and real consequences of voter ID.”
The African American Ministers Leadership Council, founded in 1997, has been working nationwide to help bring African Americans to the polls in every election, most recently through the newly-launched non-partisan “I Am A VESSEL and I Vote!” program.
Members of the African American Ministers Leadership Council (AAMLC), a program of People For the American Way Foundation, spoke out today against efforts to restrict early voting opportunities in four Ohio counties that are home to 56 percent of the state’s African American population.
"Jim Crow is alive in the 21st century and evident in the struggles we still face for equal access to the ballot box," said Rev. Dr. Tony Minor of Cleveland, Ohio. "There are politicians doing the unthinkable: they are making it harder for their constituents to exercise our constitutionally guaranteed right to vote. And once again, these suppression efforts are aimed directly at African Americans in swing states.”
Officials in four Ohio counties -- Cuyahoga, Franklin, Summit and Lucas -- are set to deny night and weekend early voting to their citizens. Those four counties are home to some of Ohio’s largest cities and over half its African American population. The state has already ended early voting for most residents in the final three days before the election. Last year, nearly 20 percent of early voters in Cuyahoga and Franklin counties went to the polls during that final time period.
The African American Ministers Leadership Council, founded in 1997, has been working nationwide to help bring African Americans to the polls in every election, most recently through the newly-launched non-partisan “I Am A VESSEL and I Vote!” program. The new early voting restrictions in Ohio are a setback to efforts to increase turnout and ensure that every vote counts.
"These efforts are intended to discourage and distract voters in the state of Ohio, but they will not succeed,” added Rev. Minor. “We have strengthened our efforts to educate our congregations and our communities about their rights and their civic responsibilities. Believe me, no matter how hard they try to stop us, we will fight back against these restrictions and we will show up at the polls and vote."
Maine's investigation of the National Organization for Marriage's campaign finance practices has resulted in the release of several internal fundraising and planning documents. HRC has posted them online where NOM-watchers are poking through them. For sheer reprehensibility, it's hard to top hiring (or at least planning to hire) someone to find and exploit children who are willing to publicly betray their gay parents.
But that kind of "ends-justify-the-means" approach to politics has been the hallmark of NOM and its campaigns in California, Maine, and elsewhere. Those who have been on the receiving end of those dishonorable and untruthful campaigns won't be surprised by much of what's in the NOM documents. But the brazenness of the language around racial wedge politics long practiced by the religious right should make it easier to expose the group's Machiavellian heart. And it may be useful in blunting their efforts to make opposition to marriage equality a "marker of identity" for Latinos and African Americans.
The NOM documents from 2009 discuss a number of organizational projects and strategies, including a "Not a Civil Right" project:
The strategic goal of this project is to drive a wedge between gays and blacks -- two key Democratic constituencies. Find, equip, energize and connect African American spokespeople for marriage; develop a media campaign around their objections to gay marriage as a civil right; provoke the gay marriage base into responding by denouncing these spokesmen and women as bigots.
And just in case that isn't clear enough: "Fanning the hostility raised in the wake of Prop 8 is key to raising the costs of pushing gay marriage to its advocates and persuading the movement's allies that advocates are unacceptably overreaching on this issue."
NOM's stated plans to overturn marriage equality in Washington, D.C. include an effort to "find attractive young black Democrats to challenge white gay marriage advocates electorally."
NOM's strategists said they needed "to accomplish a sophisticated cultural objective: interrupt the attempt to equate gay with black, and sexual orientation with race. We need to make traditional sexual morality intellectually respectable again in elite culture. And we need to give liberals an alternative way of thinking about gay rights issues, one that does not lead to the misuse of the power of government to crush dissent in the name of fighting discrimination."
Minister Leslie Watson Malachi, director of People for the American Way Foundation's African American Ministers Leadership Council, released a statement on behalf of the Council's Equal Justice Task Force calling NOM's wedge strategies "deeply cynical" and "deeply offensive."
NOM also planned to target Latinos through a "community of artists, athletes, writers, beauty queens and other glamorous noncognitive elites across national boundaries" who can help "interrupt the process of assimilation by making support for marriage a key badge of Latino identity." NOM hopes that "[a]s 'ethnic rebels' such spokespeople will also have an appeal across racial lines, especially to young urbans in America." NOM said, "Our ultimate goal is to make opposition to gay marriage an identity marker, a badge of youth rebellion to conformist assimilation to the bad side of 'Anglo' culture."
NOM has had more success in some areas than others: most recently it failed in a stated priority of overturning marriage in New Hampshire, despite having made gains in the state legislature; and it failed to prevent marriage from advancing in New York. Its efforts in other states, like Iowa, are still underway. And it is pushing constitutional amendments in North Carolina and Minnesota. It also hopes to keep opposition alive "behind enemy lines" in states that have made marriage equality a reality.
But even in 2009, the top priority for 2012 was clear: defeating Barack Obama. In order for the group to achieve victory on marriage, "the next president must be a man or woman who expressly articulates a pro-marriage culture, and appoints sympathetic Supreme Court justices." In order to help achieve that objective, the group discussed plans to "sideswipe Obama" by portraying him as a "social radical" and by taking steps to "[r]aise such issues as pornography, protection of children, and the need to oppose all efforts to weaken religious liberty and the federal level." No wonder Maggie Gallagher is such a fan of Rick Santorum -- his campaign plan mirrors NOM's.
In addition, it is utterly clear that the bishops and NOM were ready to make "religious liberty" a campaign issue well before the recent controversy over insurance coverage for contraception: "Gay marriage is the tip of the spear, the weapon that will be and is being used to marginalize and repress Christianity and the Church." NOM's documents also affirm the group's "close relationships" with Catholic bishops, with whom it would work to engage Catholic priests nationally as well as locally.
You can fault NOM for many things, but not for thinking small. NOM's planning documents discuss strategies for exporting its model and playing a major role internationally. It calls for a global "counterrevolution" against marriage equality, something that is, unfortunately, well underway, with disastrous consequences.
Newly exposed documents from the National Organization for Marriage shed light on the organization’s plans to “drive a wedge” between the LGBT movement and African American and Latino communities.
Minister Leslie Watson Malachi, Director of People For the American Way Foundation’s African American Ministers Leadership Council issued the following statement on behalf of the Council’s Equal Justice Task Force:
“If the success of the National Organization of Marriage’s movement depends on stirring up resentment between communities, it might want to rethink its strategies.
“African American men and women of faith are not a political football to be tossed around in a cynical game of resentment and division. We, like all Americans, struggle thoughtfully with issues of faith, family and politics. Anti-equality activists such as NOM consistently attempt to use a deeply cynical ‘wedge’ strategy to divide African Americans and the gay community, playing up what are now old and tired cliches. In the long run, this strategy will falter as African American and LGBT communities continue to work together for equal justice.
“I celebrate as more and more African American clergy engage in AAMLC’s Healing Grace dialogues and work to confront and overcome stigma, prejudice and homophobia in the Black Church. We continually seek to help and not harm, love and not hate, reconcile and not separate, unite and not divide -- and it's working.
“NOM’s explicit attempt to drive a wedge between the LGBT community and African Americans is deeply offensive, and it exposes the depravity of their politics.”
Minister Leslie Watson Malachi, Director of People For the American Way Foundation’s African American Ministers Leadership Council, issued the following statement in response to the Justice Department’s announcement that it would open a civil rights investigation into the fatal shooting of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin:
“It is shocking that nearly 60 years after the murder of Emmett Till, a black teenager can be killed simply for walking down the street, and his killer not even tried. Trayvon Martin’s life was not expendable. Unfortunately, for many weeks local law enforcement acted as if it were.
“The Justice Department was right to open an investigation into Trayvon’s murder. All his family is asking for is their constitutional right to equal justice under the law, for our justice system to recognize the value of their son’s life. In 2012, that shouldn’t be too much to ask.”
African American Ministers Leadership Council, a program of People For the American Way Foundation, is an alliance of over 700 progressive African American clergy supporting social justice, civil rights, and reproductive health and justice.
Minister Leslie Watson Malachi, Director of People For the American Way Foundation’s African American Ministers Leadership Council, issued the following statement on the passing of New Jersey congressman Donald Payne:
“We are all saddened to hear of the loss of Congressman Payne, who has been a leader and an inspiration to a generation of civil rights advocates. Congressman Payne, through his work in Congress and at the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Black Caucus foundation, has done so much to make the voices and needs of African Americans heard in Washington.
“Congressman Payne, while an important voice for African Americans, was also an outspoken advocate for human and civil rights for all Americans and for people around the world. He will be missed, and his life and the values he stood for will continue to inspire.”
DEARBORN, MI -- On Saturday, December 17 at 11:00 a.m., Christian and Muslim faith leaders, elected officials and community activists will hold an interfaith protest at a Lowe’s store near Dearborn, Michigan Saturday to protest the company’s decision to cave to anti-Muslim extremists and pull advertising from the TLC show “All-American Muslim.”
Lowe's pulled its advertising from the show after the Florida Family Association, a small right-wing fringe group, complained that it showed American Muslims "as ordinary folks just like you and me."
Senators Ben Cardin and Charles Schumer introduced a bill today that would impose tough penalties on those who create and distribute deceptive information on voting and elections.
On Sunday, November 6, People For the American Way Foundation’s African American Ministers Leadership Council, a nationwide network of African American clergy, will launch a yearlong program to turn out the vote in the 2012 elections. The VESSELS program will work with at least 400 clergy from across the country to respond to widespread attacks on voting rights by educating, training and turning out voters.
The effort will focus on twelve key states with large African American populations that have been hit by right-wing attacks on voting rights, including suppressive voter ID laws.Minister Leslie Watson Malachi, Director of the African American Ministers Leadership Council , said:
“African American voters are under assault from right-wing legislators who think they can win elections by keeping us from voting. We must respond by knowing our rights, educating our fellow voters and turning out even more people to the polls than we did in 2008. This is not a partisan issue: it’s about ensuring that our democracy lives up to its highest ideals.
“Throughout American history, the Black Church has been a powerful force behind efforts to ensure that all Americans have access to our Constitutional rights. The current battles over voting rights are no exception. As dozens of states pass laws making it harder to vote, we must work harder to ensure that everybody who can participates in the democratic process. We believe that God gave us a voice, and we must use it to speak with our vote.”Rev. Dr. Roland Womack, Jr., Chair of AAMLC and retired pastor of Milwaukee’s Progressive Baptist Church , said:
“The Vessels program is extremely important to the 2012 election, at a time when the rights of all people are not recognized and a permanent ruling class determines the decisions and direction of this country. I am participating because I am old enough to remember how it used to be and I promised my father and my God that I would not stand by and let this happen to us again.”Rev. Dr. Kenneth L. Samuel, Vice-Chair of AAMLC and Founder and Pastor of Victory for the World Church in Stone Mountain, Georgia , added:
“The current Occupy Wall Street movement along with ancillary movements in cities around the world is further testimony to the importance of citizens’ involvement in our political process. The VESSELS program is an important step toward voter empowerment. Our democracy depends on it.”
More information about the African American Ministers Leadership Council and the VESSELS program can be found here.
People For the American Way Foundation’s report,The Right to Vote Under Attack: The Campaign to Keep Millions of Americans from the Ballot Box
In recognition of the tenth anniversary of the attacks of September 11, 2001, People For the American Way President Michael Keegan issued the following statement:
Leslie Watson Malachi, Director of People For the American Way Foundation's African American Ministers Leadership Council, said, "Alveda King claims that, in fighting to deny women the freedom to make choices over our own bodies and to deny rights to gay and lesbian Americans, she carries on her uncle's legacy. We know better. African American women across the country are working to advance the values of freedom, equality, and justice, fighting for reproductive choice and the freedom of all people to marry.