The black minister is a revered figure in our political culture, a respect forged in heroic protest, from the fire hoses and police dogs in Bull Connor's Birmingham to the overcrowded steps of the Lincoln Memorial, where Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. announced his dream of a common humanity judged first and foremost by its character.
But as black ministers have become an important part of Democratic Party politics, some of their more conservative religious beliefs have grown increasingly objectionable to the libertine left, particularly activists for the normalization of homosexuality. Gay activist groups expect black ministers to line up for their cause, to help position them as the new heroes on the civil-rights frontier.
Rev. Thann Young leads the Agape African Methodist Episcopal Church in Olney, Md., and serves as an adviser to the Alliance for Marriage (AFM), which is urging Congress to introduce its Federal Marriage Amendment to the Constitution. Rev. Young says homosexual lobbyists are not prepared to debate the issues straightforwardly. "We've said let's take it to people and let people vote on it. They know a vast majority support the traditional institution of marriage."
Rev. Young has seen how activists who say they're against harassment, hatred, and intolerance sometimes exemplify them: "If the gay movement wants respect, they have to respect the rights of others to disagree."
Case in point: Rev. Walter Fauntroy, best known for his many years the District of Columbia's non-voting delegate in the House of Representatives, became the target of a telephone harassment campaign in July. Just hours before he attended AFM's press conference introducing its pro-marriage amendment. "They even accused him of not being an authentic organizer of the civil-rights movement, when he is definitely one of the fathers of the civil-rights movement." Rev. Young objects when activists compare "our struggle to gain freedom with something as unspiritual as gay rights."
After organizers-unaware of the harassment campaign against Rev. Fauntroy-worried about receiving nothing but busy signals at his home phone number, Rev. Fauntroy arrived to lend his voice of support at the press conference. He argued that children need a mother and a father. "I respect the right of any and every citizen to enter binding contracts with one another that are upheld by the courts of law in this country." He added, "Every gay or lesbian citizen has that right now, but that right, in my view, does not extend to redefining the institution of marriage for the purpose of legalizing a lifestyle that one has chosen."
When AFM Executive Director Matt Daniels attended the New Bethel Baptist Church to take in Rev. Fauntroy's sermon and express his thanks the next Sunday, Rev. Fauntroy told him about the flood of calls from angry gay activists. After trying to reason with a few callers, he concluded that reasoning was not the point of the calls and disconnected the phone. (Rev. Fauntroy hasn't talked to reporters about the incident.)
Weeks later, syndicated columnist Maggie Gallagher was forwarded an e-mail that explained how the phone frenzy started. In her column, she revealed that Rick Rosendall, the vice president of a D.C.
all-volunteer group called the Gay and Lesbian Activist Alliance, sent the reverend's home phone number out to several large national e-mail lists of gay activists. "Call Rev. Fauntroy ... and register your objection to his alliance with anti-gay bigots. Tell him how offensive it is that he-a civil-rights veteran, of all people-would deny to others freedoms that he himself enjoys."
Mr. Rosendall had no apologies for his telephone tactic. In a letter to the Washington Times, he argued that "Urging people to contact a public figure on a matter he has raised is not abuse. It makes no sense to call attacks on gay people principled policy positions while denouncing gays for defending themselves."
The marriage amendment, which will soon be introduced in Congress, isn't an attack, but a defense against attack. It simply states: "Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution or the constitution of any state, nor state or federal law, shall be construed to require that marital status or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups." Some conservative groups think the amendment is too moderate, because it isn't a national ban on gay marriage. Rather, it would allow, for example, Vermont to create "civil unions," but prohibit Congress or the courts from forcing Texas or Kansas to recognize them.
In the mainstream media, it's news when pro-abortion or pro-gay Republicans claim they are silenced or disrespected at the hands of the religious right. But the gay left's attempts at winning through intimidation-against a fellow Democrat-have yet to elicit much media interest.