When Black Bodies Matter Less to Black Pastors than Gay Marriage: Where is the Fight For Our Entire Community?

The Supreme Court has ruled that gay marriage is legal in the United States and effectively ends the ban that was still in effect in 14 states. We wake up this morning with a feeling of accomplishment in recognition of a progressive step toward true civil rights for all Americans.

But sadly, within the midst of such happiness, we see a force of strong-willed and determined anti-gay organizations and citizens who feel the opposite. But it is not just the feelings of a particular organization, but the planned action, that caught the eyes of many.

As the U.S. Supreme Court readied to announce its decision, a group of black clergy vowed to push back if it doesn’t like the high court’s ruling.

The Christian Post reports that the Coalition of African-American Pastors, or CAAP, joined other Christian leaders at a press conference in Memphis, Tenn., to announce their battle plans: a mass civil disobedience by members of the clergy across the nation.

The Rev. Bill Owens, president and founder of the Coalition of African-American Pastors. (Youtube screenshot)

“If they rule for same-sex marriage, then we’re going to do the same thing we did for the civil rights movement,” said the Rev. Bill Owens, president and founder of CAAP. “We will not obey an unjust law.” (Source)


It’s not that we expected this organization, which has been steadfastly against gay rights, to change their mind or even stand down. The real surprise, shock, sadness, and side-eye comes from taking a step back into the actions and words of this organization in other moments in history.  Where was this organizations outrage and plans for physical action during the Freddie Gray tragedy? According to their Facebook page, non-existent. Or more recent and possibly nine times as tragic, where was the plan for action or outrage after the Charleston shooting, when a state senator was assassinated, along with 8 other black church members in a racist mass killing?

After the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing of 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, jr. met with police chiefs to investigate the killings, met with president Kennedy (and then Johnson), and gave a speech before 8,000 people that fueled public outrage, leading to change in legislation to begin the enactment of the Civil Rights Act.

Meanwhile, the CAAP failed to act, or even mention the overt racist ideology behind the Charleston shooting:

“Let’s remember to pray for the families of our brothers and sisters in Christ who lost their lives in Charleston. Pain knows no race, creed, or socio-economic status. Let’s allow God’s love to rule in our hearts and minds and refuse to allow evil to win! Let’s come together as a Christian community: red and yellow, black and white…” (Source)

The eerily broad and docile rhetoric of the CAAP during a time of a racially-charged tragedy, without even the recognition of racial issues in America, is saddening. A week after the Charleston shooting, a Pastor in Los Angeles stated that Dylann Roof was still “one of god’s children” and that “he know not what he do”.  Well, pastors… if we ask for such docile, forgiving, and accepting reactions for a murderer of our Black community members, how can we then turn to our gay brothers and sisters and not say the same? And don’t you dare say it has to do with religious beliefs. Because forgiving “sinners” cannot be a mantra extended to mass murderers, but restricted from the gay community. This is not a knock on all pastors or the entire church-going community. We have seen many pastors and organizations step up. But the CAAP needs to take some lessons.

Here is the bottom line: If the CAAP organized around the death of Black individuals as swiftly and fervently as they did LGBTQ individuals, perhaps we would have more power in combating the ills that plague our communities.  Be consistent in the civil rights fight. If you choose to participate in civil disobedience to show your disagreement with gay equality, you MUST be just as active in the time of racial turmoil. Do not let your agenda blind you to the pain and suffering that an entire nation your own people are enduring. Fight vigorously, not just for moments that touch you, but for moments that touch the community for which you are ordained to serve.

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