In 2010, the National Organization for Marriage issued a secret document outlining a strategy to divide Obama’s African-American and LGBT support. Since then, NOM, along with their Republican collaborators, has been working to do just that. Rev. Dr. Amos Brown, NAACP national board member and head of the San Francisco NAACP, joins Welton this week to expose highlights of that document as well as his own observations of what impact events such as not appearing at the NAACP national conference in Houston last month are likely to have on the President’s re-election chances in November.
RUSH TRANSCRIPT: Rev. Dr. Amos Brown[REV. DR. C. WELTON GADDY, HOST]: Welcome back to State of Belief Radio, everyone. I’m Welton Gaddy.
The Rev. Dr. Amos Brown is a longtime civil rights activist, he’s the president of the San Francisco chapter of the NAACP, he is a dear personal friend of mine. With the courage that can only come from having marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and having faced down opponents great and small for many decades, Rev. Brown has spoken out numerous times on topics that many others find too difficult to address, including some of what he’s talked about right here on State of Belief Radio.
Today, I’m grateful to have Amos Brown join us once again, to address the sensitive subject of race in this year’s presidential campaign. He can do this, frankly, in a way that few others could.
Amos, welcome back to State of Belief Radio![REV. DR. AMOS BROWN, GUEST]: Thank you for another opportunity to join with you in speaking truth on these vital issues. [WG]: I want to start with what few people have been willing to talk about – you and I usually talk about what others don’t. Although there’ve been some articles written on this, early last month at NAACP’s gathering, President Obama was absent. Now granted, most of the press focused on Mitt Romney receiving boos during his address there, and Vice-president Biden was widely praised as connecting with the crowd. But his Molly Ball wrote in The Atlantic, this looked like a diss to a lot of people. Did you see it that way, is that what it was? [AB]: In the sense that NAACP is the oldest, largest civil rights advocacy group, and as you indicated, it was in Houston, Texas that we reaffirmed our stand supporting marriage equality, based on equal protection under the law for all citizens of this nation. And it would’ve been very much apropos for the president to have been in Houston to stand with the organization who stood with him. We haven’t given up on the president, but what we’re saying is, basically, this base of African-Americans need to be shored up, it needs to be reenergized, and we need to make sure that African-Americans understand how this matter of marriage equality’s been used as a wedge issue by our opposition, and that opposition – I will name it – it involves White Evangelicals who have promoted these so-called “culture wars,” and they have conned and duped Black faith leaders into being with them on this issue.
The position of Dr. Julius Scruggs, president of the National Baptist Convention, Dr. Thurston of the National Baptist Convention of America, Dr. Baltimore of the Progressive Convention, Dr. Goldman of the Lott Carey Convention is: we as Black Baptists are not single-issue persons, and we see that more important things than getting stuck on this matter of whether or not there should be same-sex marriages. We contend that this is a racist ploy, it is divisive; but it was birthed, it was created by White Evangelicals who have shown themselves to be duplicitous and contradictory in their stances, for during the early days of the primary they were adamantly opposed to Mr. Romney because he was a Mormon. As soon as Mr. Romney became the presumptive nominee – they changed their tune, jumped on the band wagon, jumped in bed with him – and it reflects again that their positions of these Evangelicals have not been based so much on questions of morality, of religion. But it’s a matter of power, politics and money, that they are creating these kinds of alliances.[WG]: Dr. Brown, let me – I mean, you’ve put enough on the table to keep us here the rest of this week; but let me take a step back. I want to talk strategy in just a minute, but what, I mean, do you get the feeling that President Obama’s campaign may be taking African-American voters a little bit for granted? [AB]: This has been the considered judgment of many in the community that say Blacks don’t have any place to go. They do have some place to go: some of them can go and just sit the election out. I’m not saying that this is going to happen, but I’m saying that the challenge is for the Obama campaign to reenergize its base, and to let this Black community know that this president has stood for issues that impact the quality of life for Black people, such as Pell Grants for children and young adults to get quality education and higher education. They have embraced health care – who is sicker in this nation than Black people? And I could go on down the line. Even the disparity of sentencing – Mr. Obama’s administration did support something that even President Clinton couldn’t get through, to get this matter of disparity of sentences of these Black men and women who are in this criminal justice system – disproportionately so.
So it’s matter of their getting their message out there and connecting with this base; they were there in 2008, excited, but I have moved across this country and there are those who are cynical, who are confused, and others who just don’t know what’s going on. I’m not saying it’s too late; but to that end, we are moving across the country as faith leaders to inform people, enlighten them, and let them know that they must not let anybody break their spirit, and who must still embrace the kind of political leadership that is concerned about equality of opportunity, justice and fairness for all – and all means all: Black people, other marginalized people, women, and even Gays and Straight people.[WG]: Dr. Brown, I know that there has been polling data come out that shows some erosion of support – maybe not opposition, but just erosion of support for the president in the Black community. And is it coming from a perception that you’re being taken for granted, or is it coming from a disappointment over what has happened, actually, in the Obama administration? [AB]: No, I think it’s a matter of it being born out of frustration and a lack of connection – and I think that the connection in the Black community is the black church. Unfortunately, the president hasn’t made an appearance at a major Black denominational body. And if he really wants to connect with this Black community – the Black church, the Black faith community is the base. It’s still not too late, and I am hopeful and I’m confident that we will be able to get this message over, but at this juncture it has not happened. And to that end, at the end of this month in the state of North Carolina the churches and faith communities will be uniting to get people registered to vote, to do voter education and voter mobilization, all of this under the banner of NAACP and the Black faith community. [WG]: I’m talking to the Rev. Dr. Amos Brown, head of the San Francisco NAACP, about the Obama campaign’s relationship with the African-American community. Now whether you think there’s room for improvement there or not, the opposition isn’t sitting still – and we’re going to talk about what they’re doing to try to divide and conquer the Black vote in just a minute.
Regular listeners of this show know that we work very hard to be non-partisan. At the same time when issues of importance to us are co-opted for political purposes, that’s something we need to take a close look at – and we do. My guest is the Rev. Dr. Amos Brown, head of the San Francisco chapter of the NAACP, a veteran civil rights leader of great stature. Amos, talk, if you will, about the GOP plan to divide and conquer the African-American vote – particularly on social issues, and particularly through the churches.[AB]: Well, in 2010 the National Organization for Marriage circulated a secret memo indicating that they plan to divide the Black community – and I’m going to quote that document: “The strategic goal of the project is to drive a wedge between Gays and Blacks, two key Democratic constituencies.” It says: “We aim to find, equip, energize and connect African-American spokespeople for marriage, to develop a media campaign around their objections to marriage as a civil right, and to provoke the Gay marriage base into responding by denouncing these spokesmen and women and bigots.”
Now, that all came to pass this week at the National Press Club, when one William Owens – who claims to have marched with Dr. King, who claims to have been involved in the civil rights movement – I was a part of that movement, Dr. King taught me at Morehouse, and I know pretty much who was in the vanguard of the movement; Rev. William Owens was no leader in the civil rights movement – and yet this organization of the National Organization for Marriage has anointed him to misrepresent who he is for political gain to divide the Black community. And he has no 3000 ministers behind him; that is a front, it’s fraudulent and it’s not authentic. And I hope that Black people will wake up, and their allies too, and not be duped by this kind of chicanery and political grandstanding that is now going on. And all of this is happening at the behest of White Evangelical Fundamentalists who brought in such persons as Harry Jackson there in Maryland, Tony Evans down in Dallas, Texas and others who don’t understand how they’re being used, how they’re being duped to make sure that Mr. Barack Obama is a one term president. This is sinister, it’s evil and it is wrong.[WG]: Dr. Brown, are there organized efforts among more progressive African-American religious leaders like you to push back against all of this? [AB]: Yes, as we speak, Dr. Julius Scruggs, president of the National Baptist Convention, Dr. Carol Baltimore of the Progressive National Baptist Convention, Dr. Goldman of the Lott Carey Convention, Dr. Thurston of the National Baptist Convention of America, the AME Church and the AME Zion Churches, bishops, councils and others aligned with them are working to enlighten the people, and to say to the people: “What you believe in your church about marriage – that’s your personal prerogative as a US citizen, you have freedom of religion and freedom from religion; but do not be duped by this singular issue that’s a wedge issue to divide the community.” I think that the more we get this message out, the more the African-American community will be spared from this pawn that’s being played to play this kind of sinister and divisive political game. [WG]: Let me ask you one other question. You’re being very generous with your time and insights. What should we look for to happen between now and November within the African-American community, and are there lines of separation between Church and State that are about to be crossed in an irresponsible way? [AB]: Well we’re going to follow the law; we’re going to make sure that there will be no endorsement of candidates from the pulpit – but that does not prevent a preacher from speaking his personal choice. Number two, we will be encouraging African-Americans who are not registered to vote to register. There are 6,067,361 African-Americans who are eligible to vote who are not registered to vote. And in the state of Georgia, for example, alone, there are 484,231 who are eligible to vote but are not registered to vote. In the state of Michigan there are 239,433; in North Carolina there are 409,323; and in California, where I reside, there are 204,695 who are eligible but not registered to vote. In Ohio 256,711; Virginia – 268,091; we’re getting this information out to our constituent base so that people would be energized and inspired, mobilized to exercise this right that we should all realize many people died for. Medgar Evans, my mentor from my home state of Mississippi, was murdered because he was talking about enfranchisement of Black people, registering them to vote back in 1963 – and there’s no excuse for any African-American to not be a registered voter. [WG]: The Rev. Dr. Amos Brown is a longtime civil rights legend. He continues to serve as president of the San Francisco NAACP; he’s also on the organization’s national board.
Amos, this is important stuff, and I can’t thank you enough for taking the time to share with us the insights that you’ve given us, the challenge that you are facing. You’re always welcome on State of Belief Radio, and today is no exception. Thank you so much for being with us here on State of Belief.[AB]: Thank you very much for bringing light and enlightenment and love to our nation through this broadcast.
State of Belief is based on the proposition that religion has a positive and healing role to play in the life of the nation. The show explains and explores that role by illustrating the vast diversity of beliefs in America – the most religiously diverse country in the world – while exposing and critiquing both the political manipulation of religion for partisan purposes and the religious manipulation of government for sectarian purposes.
Each week, the Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy offers listeners critical analysis of the news of religion and politics, and seeks to provide listeners with an understanding and appreciation of religious liberty. Rev. Gaddy tackles politics with the firm belief that the best way to secure freedom for religion in America is to secure freedom from religion. State of Belief illustrates how the Religious Right is wrong – wrong for America and bad for religion.
Through interviews with celebrities and newsmakers and field reports from around the country, State of Belief explores the intersection of religion with politics, culture, media, and activism, and promotes diverse religious voices in a religiously pluralistic world.
Author of more than 20 books, including First Freedom First: A Citizen’s Guide to Protecting Religious Liberty and the Separation of Church and State, the Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy leads the national non-partisan grassroots and educational organization Interfaith Alliance and serves as Pastor for Preaching and Worship at Northminster (Baptist) Church in Monroe, Louisiana.
In addition to being a prolific writer, Dr. Gaddy hosts the weekly State of Belief radio program, where he explores the role of religion in the life of the nation by illustrating the vast diversity of beliefs in America, while exposing and critiquing both the political manipulation of religion for partisan purposes and the religious manipulation of government for sectarian purposes.
Dr. Gaddy provides regular commentary to the national media on issues relating to religion and politics. He has appeared on MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show and Hardball, NBC’s Nightly News and Dateline, PBS’s Religion and Ethics Newsweekly and The Newshour with Jim Lehrer, C-SPAN’s Washington Journal, ABC’s World News, and CNN’s American Morning. Former host of Morally Speaking on NBC affiliate KTVE in Monroe, Louisiana, Dr. Gaddy is a regular contributor to mainstream and religious news outlets.
While ministering to churches with a message of inclusion, Dr. Gaddy emerged as a leader among progressive and moderate Baptists. Among his many leadership roles, he is a past president of the Alliance of Baptists and has been a 20-year member of the Commission of Christian Ethics of the Baptist World Alliance. His past leadership roles include serving as a member of the General Council of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, President of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Chair of the Pastoral Leadership Commission of the Baptist World Alliance and member of the World Economic Forum’s Council of 100. Rev. Gaddy currently serves on the White House task force on the reform of the Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.
Prior to the fundamentalist takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), Dr. Gaddy served in many SBC leadership roles including as a member of the convention’s Executive Committee from 1980-84 and Director of Christian Citizenship Development of the Christian Life Commission from 1973-77.
Dr. Gaddy received his undergraduate degree from Union University in Jackson, Tennessee and his doctoral degree and divinity training from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.