Last Monday, I received an e-mail copy of an article which appeared online in the Congressional Quarterly. I was surprised to see my name in the piece. Many of my associates felt that the article attacked their motives, impugned their integrity, and defamed their character.
The article read as follows:
“House Majority Whip Clyburn today sent a letter to Bishop Harry Jackson and 32 other prominent black clergy opposed to pending hate crimes legislation asking them to reconsider their opposition. Clyburn expressed his disappointment with a full-page ad placed by the High Impact Leadership Coalition in the July 11 edition of USA Today claiming the bill would muzzle them in their pulpits.
Jackson, pastor of the Hope Christian Church in Lanham, MD, heads the group. "Your characterization of the legislation was grossly inaccurate and highly prejudicial," Clyburn wrote. "Our own history and experiences make clear that the effects of hate crimes extend beyond the particular victim and reflect more pervasive patterns of discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender and disability. In all of these cases, under hate crimes legislation, it is not the thought or opinion that is criminalized; it is the violent act motivated by hate and prejudice that is criminalized…"
Congressman Clyburn is not only a major leader in the Party, he also is the head of the House Democratic Faith Working Group. This group supposedly meets monthly with 36 members that purportedly includes Bishop William Skylstad, head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and mega-church pastors, T.D. Jakes and Rick Warren. If Representative Clyburn is actually meeting with leaders of this caliber, he certainly is not keeping them informed of his methods.
Clyburn’s letter did not arrive until the next day, Tuesday. My first question was, “Why did the good congressman contact the magazine before he contacted me?” He had to have leaked the information three or four days before it appeared online. My conclusion was that this gentleman did not really want to talk, discuss, or solve problems.
The Congressional Quarterly, founded in 1945, is a well known publication which serves Washington insiders. It is well read and is an excellent place for someone to get a little “inside the beltway PR.” The magazine claims that it “provides comprehensive, non-partisan news and information on Congress, politics and public policy, with more than 130 reporters.”
With this background in mind, we decided to write the Congressman a response and encourage each one of our signers to draft their own individual responses as well.
Bishop Harry Jackson is chairman of the High Impact Leadership Coalition and senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, MD, and co-authored, Personal Faith, Public Policy [FrontLine; March 2008] with Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.