African American Minister issues challenge to Obama on Equal Rights

Below is a piece written by Reverend Bennie Colclough. He is an African American Minister in South Carolina, a graduate of Yale Divinity School, and a veteran of the United States Marine Corps.

His words are powerful and address some incredibly important issues facing society today. As a gay man, I find them inspirational. I hope you do too.

Can we hear the call for change?

The African-American community should pay close attention to what Sen. Barack Obama has said about equality for gay and lesbian Americans and the correlation of religion-based bigotry and discrimination against African-Americans.

The struggle for justice, equality, and dignity for gay and lesbian Americans continues and Sen. Obama and other leaders have engaged the African-American faith community on this issue.

Are we listening?

As an African-American minister, I many years ago heard the call for change on this issue and it is still my resolve today to be a missionary for justice and equality, to be courageous, true to my faith, and challenge the African-American faith community, to love God with our whole heart and our neighbors as ourselves.

The African-American faith community must defend the human dignity of all people as distinguished leaders in our community are calling us to this task.

Consider Coretta Scott King's remarks in a 1998 address in which she said that "Homophobia is like racism and anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry in that it seeks to dehumanize a large group of people, to deny their humanity, their dignity and personhood."

Just last week it was announced that Julian Bond, an icon in the civil rights movement for nearly 50 years and longtime national chairman of the NAACP, has stepped into a leadership role with the Fairness for All Families Campaign in Florida, a statewide coalition effort working to prevent an effort to write discrimination against gays and lesbians into that state's constitution.

These leaders recognize the history of religion-based bigotry and discrimination toward our own community. We know that religion was once misused to justify slavery.

Today it is being misused to deny members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community full and equal rights.

The African-American faith community must recognize the perpetrators and injustice, and bring about an end to the hurt that has been caused to so many.

Discrimination is morally wrong and un-Christian. Let me repeat this: Discrimination is morally wrong and un-Christian.

Sen. Barack Obama has said that he strongly disagrees with the views of people like gospel singer Donnie McKlurkin and others who use religion to attack members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community. Those of us who are missionaries for justice and equality are hopeful that Senator Barack Obama will be true to his platform for change, and speak out against religious bigotry coming from a select group of African-American evangelical leaders.

His appearance Monday night at a presidential debate in Myrtle Beach would be a good opportunity for him to do just that.

While Senator Obama's candidacy for president of the United States offers hope, let us not forget a facet of society that has had little hope for change the last 20 years. The purpose of our government, first and foremost, is equality under the law, respect for human rights, and protection of all our citizens, whether they are white, black, male, female, disabled, Christian, or gay. We must be about the business of building a beloved community with a foundation of compassion and justice for all.

The Declaration of Independence says: "All people are created equal and endowed with the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." The Bible says, "love the Lord your God with all your heart" and "love your neighbor as yourself." Mark 12:30-31 There are no exceptions about who our neighbors are.

We must be courageous enough on our watch to change our society for the better.

So let us hear the call for change from our leaders and join them in challenging those people who misuse religious teachings to justify attitudes of condemnation and discrimination toward our gay and lesbian friends and neighbors.

Rev. Dr. Bennie Colclough of South Carolina serves as co-chairman for the S.C. Progressive Network and has been a longtime advocate for the LGBT community. He is a contributing writer for Faith In America, an organization that works to help the public better understand the harm caused by religion-based bigotry and discrimination.