Several gay groups say they are baffled
by President Barrack Obama's continued trust in pastors they view as
anti-gay; they contend Obama has a new “pastor problem”.
Over the past year, Obama has come
under fire several times over close ties to incendiary clergy. The
rantings of Rev. Wright during the general campaign served as fodder
for critics of the president who called the pastor “anti-American”
And gay rights groups howled when it
was announced that Rev. Rick Warren would give the invocation prayer
at the president's inauguration. Warren is a best-selling author and
heads the prominent evangelical Saddleback Church in Southern
California. He supported passage of Proposition 8, the November
initiative that placed a gay marriage ban in the California
constitution. During that heated gay marriage debate, Warren likened
gay marriage to an incestuous relationship, pedophilia and even
Gay rights activists fear Obama is once
again aligning himself with socially conservative pastors who are
doggedly opposed to gay rights.
The president has surrounded himself
with five different pastors, four of whom oppose gay rights, and in
at least one case support the notion that gays and lesbians can “pray
away the gay.”
The president's prayer circle consists
of five men, two of them white and three black: Bishop T.D. Jakes,
Kirbyjon Caldwell, Joel Hunter, Jim Wallis and civil rights veteran
Otis Moss Jr, the New
York Times reported on March 14.
Bishop T.D. Jakes helms the
30,000-strong Potter's House church in Dallas, Texas and is known for
his vehement anti-gay rhetoric. Rev. Jakes, who made headlines last
month after his son, Jermaine Jakes, was netted in a police gay sex
sting operation in a Dallas park, has called being gay “brokenness”
and has admitted he would discriminate against a sexually active gay
Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell's Windsor
Village Church in Houston, Texas believes gays can be “cured”
through prayer. Caldwell oversees the world's largest – and
possibly richest – United Methodist congregation.
“I think Obama's got another pastor
problem,” Wayne Besen, executive director of Truth Wins Out, a
group dedicated to exposing the “ex-gay” myth, told The Sunday
“There's a tendency to surround
himself with these anti-gay preachers which is very offensive. These
are people who believe that we are sinful and sick and that you can
pray away the gay.”
“The notion that Obama can't find a
pastor in America who doesn't have these outrageous extreme beliefs
is baffling to many of us,” Besen added.
Joel Hunter once headed the Christian
Coalition, the most widely recognized anti-gay and anti-abortion
group in the nation. He now runs a conservative megachurch in
Obama has also spiritually reached out
to Jim Wallis, president and chief executive of Sojourners, a
Washington-based evangelical magazine, who is a vocal opponent of
abortion and gay marriage.
Gay activists are also concerned by the
fact that three of the men – Wallis, Rev. Hunter and Rev. Moss –
have been appointed by Obama to the White House Office of Faith-Based
and Neighborhood Partnerships, an extension of President Bush's
Faith-Based Council that delivered funds to church social groups.
In creating the office, the president
deferred the thorny issue of whether religious groups receiving
federal money could continue discriminating against gay, lesbian,
bisexual and transgender folks. Under the Bush administration,
organizations were allowed to discriminate against gay people in
their hiring practices and could decline to provide services to the
gay and lesbian community.
Besen suggested Obama should consult
Bishop Gene Robinson instead. Robinson is the openly gay New
Hampshire bishop whose ordination has divided the worldwide Anglican
“There's a person of courage and
integrity and the kind of international leader that Obama should look
towards,” Besen told the paper.