Black clergy light into Clinton on abortion, religious freedom

by Gregory Tomlin, |
U.S. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton speaks at a campaign rally in Daytona Beach, Florida, U.S. October 29, 2016. | REUTERS/Brian Snyder

BOSTON (Christian Examiner) – A group of black Pentecostal and charismatic clergy in Boston have issued a stern open letter to Democrat presidential nominee Hillary Clinton over her stance on abortion and religious liberty, among other issues.

The clergy, affiliated with Seymour Institute for Black Church and Policy Studies, asked for a meeting with the candidate in the letter delivered to the Clinton campaign Monday and claimed that blacks in America "face a crisis of catastrophic proportions" in urban centers, suffer disproportionately from unemployment and violence, and are much more likely to feel the sting of abortion.

"We are confident that you, a highly experienced and very savvy candidate, know full well the importance of the black vote in this election cycle," the clergy wrote. "We know that you will not make the political mistake of taking the 69,000 black churches in the U.S. for granted."

For political leaders to call for changes in citizens' beliefs is reminiscent of totalitarianism. In our view, such a proposal constitutes a denial of our religious freedom.

On the issue of abortion, the clergy claimed they are "very concerned" about Clinton's lack of concern for the unborn.

"In April 2015 in a speech before the National Organization of Women you stated, 'Far too many women are still denied critical access to reproductive health care and safe childbirth... Laws have to be backed up with resources and political will. And deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed...." For political leaders to call for changes in citizens' beliefs is reminiscent of totalitarianism. In our view, such a proposal constitutes a denial of our religious freedom," the clergy wrote.

Members of the Institute said the majority of black churches believe the deliberate destruction of human life in abortion is wrong biblically, as well as according to natural law. They oppose the "violent denial of life to the unborn through abortion."

"It is our view that human life is a gift of God that we are called upon to protect, nurture and sustain, because we are created in God's image. Therefore, our opposition to abortion is a logical outgrowth of our view that there must be justice for all. Particularly relevant is the innocence of the unborn child. The Bible places an extremely high value on human life and particularly on the lives of the innocent who are under the special protection of God. Those who take the life of the innocent violate a key biblical principle as well as a fundamental principle of natural justice," the clergy wrote, citing the high number of black babies being aborted – 365 abortions for every 1,000 babies born.

"In New York City more black babies are dying in their mother's womb than are being born. In 2008, Secretary Clinton, you took the position that abortion should be rare, and you emphasized 'by rare I mean rare.' But Black babies are dying at terrifying rates. How do you justify your unconscionable silence in the face of such destruction of innocent black life? Don't black lives matter? What policies would you pursue as president to reverse the soaring abortion rates among black women?"

The clergy also wrote that they are concerned religious liberty for the black community. That concern stems largely from the government's recent push for LGBT rights and the Supreme Court's approval of same-sex marriage, both of which have very low rates of approval among the black church.

In particular, the clergy reject comparisons between the Civil Rights struggle of the 1960s and the church's position on homosexuality.

"[I]n this very nation demagogues have dared to accuse people of faith of promoting Jim Crow laws when they seek to safeguard their freedom to obey their conscience and follow the teachings of their sacred texts. There is no analogy between the apartheid of Jim Crow and the religious freedom laws in force across this country. It is the very same faith that is protected by religious freedom laws that inspired our black ancestors to lead the movement for the abolition of slavery and the end of Jim Crow apartheid in the American South. It is absurd to demean the defense of this faith as the equivalent of the injustices that we have fought and overcome," the clergy wrote.

"The drive to normalize immoral sexual behavior has inspired some to dishonor the memory of courageous blacks who experienced the unique horrors of white supremacy, slavery, rape, terrorism and apartheid in the U.S. Their argument that religious freedom laws are historically and existentially equivalent to Jim Crow laws rests on false assertions. Partisans who make these arguments have declared war on the truth of the black experience as well as on the freedom of faithful Americans to follow their consciences."

While the leaders said they abide by the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. and "do not invite conflict," they said they believe conflict has come to them in the form of a "well-financed war" being waged by the LGBT community on the "faith of our ancestors."

They wrote, however, that when the LGBT agenda and religious beliefs come into conflict, they are prepared to "suffer the consequences" of abiding by their faith.

"We do not organize to suppress the freedom of other groups. We do, however, insist upon having freedom to fulfill our call to righteous living and service to humankind," the clergy wrote.

The group cited as an example of an attack on the church the recent revelation through Wikileaks of a Clinton campaign email which said Catholic Church's teaching on human sexuality, marriage and the family could be subverted "by planting externally funded groups in the church to advance a politically correct agenda."

"What would you do as president to guarantee that religious freedoms are balanced against civil rights rather than being trumped by them?" The clergy asked.