Have you ever had a chronic injury that you just could not shake? As a sophomore in high school, I was fortunate enough to make the first string on my high school football team. After a few great games, I received a painful helmet blow to the thigh that caused me to hobble for months. I never thought the injury would go away permanently. I was fine one week and then hurting again the next. It obviously caused the quality of my play to also rise and fall with the pain. Thankfully, I eventually made it through that season and went on to have several outstanding years of competition. I am reminded of that chronic injury as I look at the national attempts to redefine the nature of the American civil rights movement.
Let me explain. I am convinced that the black community is still in need of reviving and upgrading the civil rights movement. Like Bill Cosby, I believe that family restoration is at the heart of the problems that the black community faces. Yet there seems to be a growing attempt by the gay community to hijack the civil rights movement. There has been an attempt to mask personal, lifestyle preference as a civil rights issue. In addition, the radical gay movement seems to be seeking to silence the Church. In my world, it seems that this on–going attempt to hijack the civil rights movement and attack the Church is like my youthful football injury. This assault on our culture seems like it will never go away.
Last Friday, I hosted a press conference in Washington, D.C. on behalf of the High Impact Leadership Coalition, aimed at opposing HR 3685- The Employment Non-Discrimination Act also known as ENDA. The press conference was attended by The Family Research Council, Exodus International, the Let Freedom Ring Foundation, and Vision America.
We represented a multicultural, multi-racial group of Christians who believe that our legislators have started down a dangerous direction with this law and the Hate Crimes legislation which was recently passed by the Senate (S1105). We began the press conference by expressing our thankfulness that the president pledged to veto this legislation. The remainder of this article will outline some of the most salient points from our press conference.
Whenever anyone uses the term “discrimination,” it brings a bad taste to our mouths. Yet in recent years, a strange reversal has taken place - aggressive gay activists have become involved in persecuting the Church. In the name of liberty, they are infringing on the liberties of others. Unfortunately in this sound bite generation, there is often not enough time for us to fully explain our positions.
Several African-American spokespersons addressed the media at the press conference in order to refute the idea that all black community activists are in favor of ENDA. It is obvious that the black community is no longer a monolith. One size does not fit all. Some of the most well-known black civil rights organizations have sold out the black community by supporting such legislation. We declared that although gay activists are seeking to hide behind the race issue, this legislation affects every American – black or white.
Let me give you a list of five of the most important reasons we are against this legislation.
1. ENDA would overturn the historical basis of protected class status by adding “actual or perceived sexual orientation.” While every other federally-protected class embodies three standards: an obvious, immutable characteristic; a history of discrimination evidenced by economic disenfranchisement; and political powerlessness, “sexual orientation” falls under none of these criteria. It is an insult to African Americans to grant special protections for “sexual orientation.”
2. ENDA expands civil rights protections on the vague basis of perception. An employee or potential employee could sue an employer for his or her perception of their sexual orientation. Yet unlike the currently-protected classes of race, age, and gender in employment, sexual orientation is not scientifically verifiable. It is an offense to African Americans to equate “sexual orientation” with skin color.
3. ENDA infringes on the religious liberties of our parishioners. As shepherds of our flock, we cannot stand by while our parishioners are forced to ignore their convictions when they leave church on Sunday. ENDA requires people of faith to lay down their religious freedom at the office door. This opposes our beliefs and it is not practical – faith cannot be segmented into only one part our lives.
4. ENDA puts the integrity of our ministries in jeopardy. Many African-American churches run outreach ministries separate from the church to care for our communities. My local church runs a daycare which cares for over 200 children daily and the potential to serve another 100+ children in extended care for those who are in school. ENDA provides unclear protection for schools, while leaving ministries such as childcare, after school programs, and food and clothing banks vulnerable to ENDA mandates.
5. ENDA is a direct attack on our freedom of religion guaranteed in the First Amendment. The Free Exercise Clause in the First Amendment grants all Americans the freedom to practice their faith. ENDA stands in direct opposition to this liberty and must be rejected as a result.
ENDA will be voted on this coming week. Therefore, I want to encourage everyone reading this article to send it to at least five additional people. Second, I recommend that every reader contacts their congressional representatives. Third, we need to contact the President’s office in order to encourage him veto both the Hate Crimes (S 1105) and ENDA (HR 3685) legislations, if passed.
Let’s make up our minds to win the culture war.
I, for one, am counting on you!
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.