CHURCH AND STATE

Obama’s Support For Gay Marriage, Romney’s Mormonism Dividing African American Churches

Certain pastors in African American churches are urging their congregations not to vote come election day over disillusionment with President Barack Obama‘s support for marriage equality and Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith.

For some African American Christians, this election truly is a matter of choosing between the lesser of two evils. On the one hand is Barack Obama, who claimed 95% of the black vote in his 2008 election, but whose support of same-sex marriage earlier this year has estranged some of those voters. Pastors claim their congregants question how Obama can call himself a true Christian and back gay marriage.

On the other hand, there is Mitt Romney whose conservative values are more in line with black Christian voters’, but whose Mormon faith has a history of racism and leaves many voters feeling uncomfortable. During the 2008 primaries, the Southern Baptist Convention ran articles in its Baptist Press calling the Church of Latter-Day Saints a cult. Though the Southern Baptists are discouraging that kind of terminology this time around, the Mormon’s ban on African Americans in the priesthood until 1978 and lack of a formal apology for past discrimination still sits uneasily with black Christian voters.

While both Dems and Republicans argue that Romeny’s faith should be off-limits, others, such as Rev. Floyd James of the Greater Rock Missionary Baptist Church in Chicago, find this hypocritical. Speaking to the Associated Press, James said, “Obama was supposed to answer for the things that Rev. Wright said. Yet here’s a guy (Romney) who was a leader in his own church that has that kind of history, and he isn’t held to some kind of account? I have a problem with that.”

Despite misgivings about Obama and Romney, many pastors are encouraging their congregations to vote and educating them on a number of issues, such as state voter identification laws, which critics claim discriminate against minorities. Black church leaders like Rev. George Nelson Jr., senior pastor of Grace Fellowship Baptist Church in Brenham, TX say that African Americans went through too much to earn the right to vote just to throw it away: “Because of those that made sacrifices in days gone by and some greater than others with their lives. It would be totally foolish for me to mention staying away from the polls.”