30 Dec 2010

Baptist pastor sued by four men for sex abuse when they were teens preaches that homosexuals deserve death

Southern Poverty Law Center - Hate Watch September 23, 2010

The Words of Bishop Eddie Long

by Robert Steinback

Long before Bishop Eddie L. Long became embroiled this week in allegations of using his leverage as pastor and mentor to compel three teenage boys into sexual relationships, the leader of the Atlanta-area New Birth Missionary Baptist Church recorded a sermon – and sold copies of it in the church bookstore – denouncing homosexuality and attributing society’s problems to men becoming more like women and women more like men.

“The problem today and the reason why society is like it is, is because men are being feminized and women are becoming masculine,” Long says. He then rejects the notion that homosexual orientation can’t be changed. “You can not say, ‘I was born this way’… I don’t care what scientists say, If you say you were born this way, then you’re saying, ‘God, you’re a liar! And I see this thing down here but I’m going to ignore it!’ ”

With the church’s website down this week, it isn’t known if copies of the undated sermon, entitled “Back to the Future,” are still offered for sale. The Southern Poverty Law Center purchased a VHS copy while producing stories on Long and other African-American church leaders who opposed gay rights for its Spring 2007 edition of Intelligence Report. [see below]

Much of Long’s sermon is devoted to the theme of proper gender roles. “It is the most unattractive thing I have ever seen, when I see women wearing uniforms that men would wear, and women fighting to get in the military!”

Long later mocks lesbians and female self-gratification. “So the woman gets converted, or perverted, to turn towards woman. Why would she turn toward woman? Because, she’ll turn toward woman because woman is acting like man.”

Later, he adds, “…and everybody knows it’s dangerous to enter an exit!”

He continues, “And everybody knows, ladies, if you go to the store and buy this device [marital aids], it’s Memorex! It ain’t real!”

Long later says, “That’s the reason why we got sexual immorality. That’s the reason why there’s a rise in the gay agenda. That is the reason why… Church won’t say nothing — It’s amazing, church folk: ‘Well, I’m gay. Well, ‘Just don’t bother me. Or you can bother me.’ That’s the only statements. You don’t say, ‘and the Lord said.’ You’re out of order. You’ve turned the truth into the lie. You can be converted. You were not born that way! Let me pray with you. Let me tell you, don’t you be conformed to this world. But be ye transformed from the, ‘Well, I don’t know what I am.’ Tell it, take your clothes down, I’ll show you who you are!”

Later, Long says, “And God said, ‘Everybody in here that knows what’s right and ain’t practicing, and every woman that knows what to do, but still want to act like a woman that, of the 90’s that the world has described, God says, and to every man that knows what God is saying to do and you’re still acting like the boys on the corner, “God says you deserve death!”

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Southern Poverty Law Center - Intelligence Report, Spring 2007, Issue Number: 125

Face Right

Black Religious Opposition to Gays Rising

By Brentin Mock

Bishop Eddie Long takes to the pulpit wearing a crisp, two-piece suit. Long's been known to dress down in tight muscle shirts and leather vests when preaching, but for this sermon it's business attire. A flock of young men from his New Birth Missionary Baptist Church near Atlanta surround Long's pulpit.

"We're raising our young boys to be just like the women," he bellows to his congregation, which today numbers more than 25,000 people. "We keep telling men to get in touch with their [sweetens his voice] sensitive self."

Almost 45 minutes into the sermon, captured on a videotape that is for sale in his church's bookstore, Bishop Long grows louder and angrier.

"The problem today and the reason society is like it is, is because men are being feminized and women are being masculine!" he roars. "You can not say, ‘I was born this way.' … I don't care what scientists say!"

The crowd erupts in "amens," laughter and clapping.

Eddie Long is just one example of a growing number of powerful, politically active African-American pastors who are increasingly aligning themselves with the white evangelical Christian leaders who have been building a religiously based anti-gay movement for more than 30 years now. Like their white counterparts, these black anti-gay preachers routinely identify the so-called "homosexual agenda" — not poverty, racism, gang violence, inadequate schools, or unemployment — as the No. 1 threat facing black Americans today. Often, they take their cues from white Christian Right hard-liners like Traditional Values Coalition chairman Louis Sheldon, who told TV pundit Tucker Carlson in January 2006 that homosexuality is "the biggest problem facing inner-city black neighborhoods." Sheldon later delivered the same message to the Congressional Black Caucus, this time accompanied by Bishop Paul Morton, a black anti-gay minister from New Orleans.

Some black ministers have been attracted to the white-dominated religious anti-gay movement by the money and power of white Christian leaders, not to mention "faith-based" grants under the Bush Administration. But it's also obvious that a segment of the black community in America has long had its own negative attitudes toward gays and lesbians. "I'm sure [black ministers] are being co-opted, but they don't need a great deal of co-optation," is how the Rev. Peter Gomes, chaplain of Harvard University, put it to the Village Voice in 2004.

"I think they come to the prejudice on their own."

Attitudes Toward Homosexuality

Public opinion among African Americans on matters concerning homosexuality is a complex phenomenon. On the one hand, African Americans are more likely than other groups to support anti-discrimination legislation protecting gays and lesbians — a reflection of their deep commitment to the ideals of equality in light of their own history of second-class citizenship.

On the other hand, polls typically show that African Americans are more likely than other groups to disapprove of homosexuality — a reflection, in large part, of factors such as the deep level of religious conviction among African Americans. As is true for many white Americans, it is not surprising that some of the most adamant opponents of gays and lesbians among black communities speak from the pulpit.

The fire of anti-gay prejudice among African Americans has been stoked by other sources as well. "Disapproval of homosexuality has been a characteristic of much of the black-nationalist ideology," Harvard African American Studies professor Henry Louis Gates wrote in The Greatest Taboo: Homosexuality in Black Communities.

Louis Farrakhan, ailing leader of the black nationalist Nation of Islam, has been a constant critic of homosexuality. "God don't like men coming to men with lust in their hearts like you should go to a female," he told a Kansas City crowd in 1996. "If you think that the kingdom of God is going to be filled up with that kind of degenerate crap, you're out of your damn mind."

The Million Man March and Millions More Movement, both Nation of Islam creations, were more heavily attended by black Christians and their ministers — Christians who found themselves very much in tune with the Nation's ideas about homosexuality — than by black Muslims like those who make up the Nation. Those tenets hold that homosexuality, along with all other "sexual perversions," originated exclusively among white Europeans. This sentiment, also popularized by black Christian ministers throughout Africa, holds that gays and lesbians, and especially black gays and lesbians, are culpable in the destruction of black civilization.

"What Farrakhan says is just a clear and pointed example of what basically underlies the theology and social actions of our African-American communities and churches," Rev. Irene Monroe, a lesbian black minister from Massachusetts, wrote in her essay, "Louis Farrakhan's Ministry of Misogyny and Homophobia."

"What's surprising," Monroe added in a recent interview, "is that the same kind of fervor that was employed in the last election to vote down same-sex marriage is the same fervor African Americans once experienced too around civil rights. It's a shame. It's amazing how hatred can motivate people."

But not all militant black leaders have expressed antipathy like Farrakhan's toward homosexual people. In 1970, the year after New York's Stonewall Riots — a watershed moment for the gay liberation movement sparked by a police raid on a gay bar frequented by blacks and Latinos — Black Panthers co-founder Huey Newton officially embraced the gay liberation movement. Newton said that homosexual people "might be the most oppressed in the society" at the Revolutionary People's Constitutional Convention that year.

"The terms 'faggot' and 'punk' should be deleted from our vocabulary," Newton later wrote. "Homosexuals are not enemies of the people."

Fanning the Flames

White leaders of the Christian Right have long sought to recruit blacks into their anti-gay crusade. Conservative Christian organizations with multimillion-dollar budgets have funneled money to black anti-gay churches through programs such as the Christian Coalition's ill-fated "Samaritan Project," which aimed to raise millions of dollars for black churches that "promote family values." (The Samaritan Project disintegrated after black employees sued the Christian Coalition in 2001 for allegedly forcing black workers to enter through the back door and take their breaks in segregated rooms. The coalition settled the case out of court.)

As far back as 1994, when far-right evangelicals were revving up to do battle with the Clinton Administration, Sheldon and his Traditional Values Coalition worked with several black churches to produce the "Gay Rights/Special Rights" pseudo-documentary, designed to pit African Americans against gay Americans by presenting the struggle for gay rights as a leech upon the legacy of the civil rights movement.

Homophobic white evangelicals have also made it their business to preach directly to black audiences. Rod Parsley, the head of the World Harvest Church in Columbus, Ohio, is one of the anti-gay evangelical movement's shining stars, a man who routinely spreads such falsehoods as the idea that homosexuals die at the average age of 43 and that only 1% will die of old age. He also enjoys substantial crossover appeal among African Americans, who make up about 45% of his 12,000-member congregation.

In addition, the faith-based funding initiatives of the current Bush Administration provide financial incentives for black preachers to promote a marriage agenda that's hostile to gays and lesbians, through federal programs such as the $1.5 billion Healthy Marriage Initiative. That initiative provides funding to religious groups, mostly in inner-city areas, to promote "healthy marriages," defined as "married families with two biological parents."

After Bishop Long received a $1 million faith-based grant from the U.S. Administration for Children & Families in 2004, Esther Kaplan — a well-known commentator and author of the 2005 book With God on Their Side: George W. Bush and the Christian Right — told the Atlanta gay newspaper Southern Voice, "It cannot be bad for your career as a black minister at this point to speak out against gay marriage."

Support for anti-gay causes, of course, is far from universal among black church leaders. For instance, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, pastor of the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago whose congregation includes Sen. Barack Obama, has come out strongly against allowing anti-gay prejudice to become gospel in black churches. His church is one of the few that has a "Same Gender Loving" ministry for congregants. One of Wright's close associates, black theologian and public intellectual Michael Eric Dyson, also has publicly supported the gay community.

Civil vs. Gay Rights

Today, more and more black preachers across the country are picking up the idea that gay rights activists have no right to cite the civil rights movement. These preachers are now becoming the new advance guard in the hard-line Christian Right's crusade to religiously and politically condemn homosexuals. They are demonizing gays in fiery sermons and hammering the message that gay rights and civil rights are not only separate issues, but also opposing forces.

Rev. Dwight McKissic, a black Texas pastor, argued last year that classifying the gay rights movement as part of the larger civil rights struggle is "insulting, offensive, demeaning, and racist." He spoke at the 2006 "Values Voters Summit," a conservative political action conference sponsored by the nation's dominant anti-gay evangelical organization, James Dobson's Focus on the Family. Also last year, anti-gay African-American Bishop Eugene Rivers told The Boston Globe, "The gay community is pimping the civil rights movement."

Of course, many gay and lesbian activists see it just the other way around — they believe that white evangelical hard-liners are cynically using compliant African-American pastors to serve their own purposes.

At "Justice Sunday III," a January 2006 religious conference sponsored by two white-led organizations, the Family Research Council and Focus on the Family, black ministers stood by as white evangelicals compared the "struggles" of conservative Christians to those of black Americans in the 1960s.

For his part, the late Martin Luther King Jr., generally seen as the godfather of the civil rights movement, never spoke directly to homosexuality, although Bayard Rustin, an openly gay black man and King confidant, orchestrated the 1963 March on Washington. Others who worked closely with King say that no matter what one thinks about the origins of homosexuality, all people should enjoy equality. "You can have a variance of opinion on sexual orientation," veteran civil rights activist Rev. Jesse Jackson told a crowd of Microsoft executives on Martin Luther King Day this January. "But what should not vary is protection under the law."

Yet when King's widow Coretta Scott King died last year, her memorial service was held at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Ga. — the sprawling church pastored by Bishop Eddie Long, a man who has informed his congregants that God tells homosexuals that "you deserve death." Bernice King, the youngest daughter of the King family, is a minister at New Birth and, despite her mother's opposite views, an outspoken opponent of gay rights. (Outside, members of the Westboro Baptist Church led by white anti-gay extremist Fred Phelps picketed King's funeral with signs reading, "No Fags in King's Dream.")

As the debate over gay rights continues to heat up, African-American pastors preaching anti-gay theology along the lines of Bishop Long are increasingly visible — particularly in regions with large gay populations, such as the areas around Washington, D.C., Chicago, Atlanta, Seattle and the Northeast generally. At the same time, the split between those who despise gays and others in black America is widening.

The views of those who support gay rights are probably best summed up by Coretta King, who advocated for gay rights right up to her death. In 1998, speaking on the 30th anniversary of her husband's death, she made that plain.

"I still hear people say that I should not be talking about the rights of lesbian and gay people and I should stick to the issue of racial justice," the civil rights leader's widow told her audience. "But I hasten to remind them that Martin Luther King Jr. said, ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.' I appeal to everyone who believes in Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream to make room at the table of brother- and sisterhood for lesbian and gay people."

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Slate - September 27, 2010

God's Bigmouths

Men like Bishop Eddie Long are fouling the legacy of the civil rights movement.

By Christopher Hitchens

Passing through Union Station in Washington, D.C., last week, I made my usual nod to the statue of A. Phillip Randolph. You can miss it if you are not looking for it, and it has been allowed to suffer defacement. (The sculpted pair of reading glasses held in the great man's hand was snapped off some years ago and was never replaced.) Randolph built a powerful trade union for black railroad workers and proposed the first march on Washington when Franklin Roosevelt was president. His role in the later civil rights movement was germinal and dynamic. But you never hear his name anymore, and it is not taught to schoolchildren. Nor is the name of Bayard Rustin, a charismatic black intellectual and pioneer of gay rights, who organized the March on Washington in 1963. Along with many other secular democratic heroes, Randolph and Rustin have been airbrushed from history. The easiest way to gain instant acceptance as a black "leader" these days is to shove the word Reverend in front of your name.

Or, if you are really greedy and ambitious, the word Bishop. Bishop Eddie Long of the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Georgia preaches that Bayard Rustin was a vile sinner who suffered from the curable "disease" of homosexuality. I have a rule of thumb for such clerics and have never known it to fail: Set your watch and sit back, and pretty soon they will be found sprawling lustily on the floor of the men's room. It may be a bit early to claim the scalp of Eddie Long for this collection, but I doubt I shall have to withdraw. Here, after all, is what his friend the Rev. Timothy McDonald III, of the First Iconium Baptist Church (no less!), has to say: "This is the issue: how can you be against homosexuality and you are allegedly participating in it? That is the epitome of hypocrisy." Cynicism and naivete seem to coexist happily in this statement. The Rev. McDonald does not quite seem to believe the rather unimpressive denials issued by his richly draped brother in Christ. And he talks as if fevered denunciation of homosexuality has never before been an early warning of repressed desire.

One of his alleged partners in depravity may have been on the borderline of the age of consent, but otherwise I can't make myself care about whether the self-anointed Bish was rogering his flock. What concerns me isn't even the laughable obviousness of his cupidity: the jewels and gold chains and limos and bodyguards. This is all a familiar part of the tawdry business of "Churchianity" now finding loopholes for the rich and venal at a well-upholstered religious establishment somewhere near you. No, what offends me is that Long was able to get four presidents of the United States to attend his opulent circus for the funeral of Coretta Scott King in 2006. What a steep and awful decline from the mule cart that carried her husband's coffin in 1968. And the decline can be measured out in dog collars, from the Rev. Jesse Jackson all the way down to the Rev. Al Sharpton and the venomous Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

Many other charlatans have benefited from the clerical racket, and the most notorious of them—Jerry Falwell, Ted Haggard, Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart—have been white. But there is something especially horrible about the way in which the black pulpit gets a sort of free pass, almost as if white society has assured itself that black Americans just love them some preaching. In this fog of ethnic condescension, it is much easier for mountebanks and demagogues to get away with it.

It is not amazing to me that the Bish is still standing and getting moist applause from the pews after the testimony of his boys brigade of LongFellows. (What the hell is that name, if not a giveaway?) It is amazing that he is still around after the ceaseless exposure of his personal finances. What I should like to know is this: How much of that funding and expenditure has been tax-deductible or written off as "charitable"? In a time of widespread discussion of the spread of the tax burden, why is it never proposed that the vast sums raised by the churches be subject to the scrutiny of the IRS? And still another question: In 2006, Long's church received about $1 million of U.S. taxpayers' money from the "faith-based initiative" of the George W. Bush administration. It was suggested at the time that this might be a quid pro quo for the Bish's militant stand against gay marriage and other homosexual abominations. If so, it would make my follow-up question even more amusing: How did Long and his young friends, "bonded" as they were in strong male "covenants," actually spend our cash?

To those young friends, then, "Thank you all very much for coming out"—as Sen. Larry Craig actually did say at the opening of his own post-men's-room press conference. The day can't be far off when Long follows the traditional script and starts to yowl for prayer and repentance. And this would all be the greatest fun if it didn't also involve the degradation of the King family and the steady erosion of the real memory of the civil rights movement, which is not safe when left in the keeping of God's bigmouths and tree-shakers.

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