President Barack Obama’s “evolution” on the gay marriage front started in 1996 when he endorsed same-sex marriage and ended in 2012 when he, once again, stated his support for gay unions. The circular move, though, has some faith leaders up in arms, leading to the Obama campaign’s need to reassure these individuals, while pledging to protect religious freedom.
Last week, The Blaze reported about Obama’s faith adviser, the Rev. Joel Hunter, and his opposition to the recent pro-gay marriage announcement. Now, The New York Times reports that the president is in full-out damage control, as he attempts to explain his reasoning to Christian leaders who have serious ideological and theological disagreement with him regarding the Biblical definition of marriage.
Watch Hunter describe his conversation with Obama, below:
Hunter, in particular, has voiced his discontent and has said that Obama’s views on marriage will make it harder for him to support the president. This comes even after the president pledged to protect the religious liberties of churches that wish not to marry gay couples. But Hunter isn’t alone in his confusion and angst surrounding Obama’s endorsement.
Just two hours (around 4:30 p.m. ET) after the president made his not-so-new-found views known on gay marriage, he held a conference call with around eight African American pastors. The pastors — most of whom had been supportive of Obama’s electoral prospects in the past — were so thrown off by his stance that they told him they may need to reconsider their support for his re-election campaign.
In the end, most them did, indeed, agree to “work aggressively” to help him — but not everyone.
“They were wrestling with their ability to get over his theological position,” the Rev. Delman Coates, pastor of Mt. Ennon Baptist Church in Clinton, Maryland, told the Times. “Gay marriage is contrary to their understanding of Scripture. There are people who are really wrestling with this.”
Coates, despite citing discontent among some of the pastors on the call, does believe that most of the pastors included will come around and look past Obama’s views on the issue.
“It was very clear to me that he had arrived at this conclusion after much reflection, introspection and dialogue with family and staff and close friends,” he said. “There are more public policy issues that we agree upon than this issue of private morality in which there’s some difference.”
Black churches have traditionally been opposed to same sex marriage. Following Obama’s announcement, the community has been bustling with discussion. While most have been opposed to the president’s views, a minority of African American leaders support gay unions. The USA Today has more about his this could impact the election:
The conflicted sentiments within African-American churches reflect a broader struggle in the American public. A USA TODAY Poll showed that slightly more than half of Americans agreed with the president’s decision. A scientifically valid breakdown of African Americans was not available, but past polls have shown blacks generally opposed to gay marriage.
African Americans are a key voting bloc for the president this November. In 2008, exit polls showed Obama lost to John McCain among white voters but won more than 95% of the African-American vote.
Some African American pastors are even telling their congregants to stay home this November:
As The Blaze noted last week, the nation is intensely divided over the legalities of gay marriage. While 50 percent claim they think it should be legal, 48 percent believe that same-sex unions should not be permissible. Among those who attend church regularly, 67 percent believe that gay marriage should be illegal. These proportions come from a Gallup study that was released last week. Thus, Obama’s announcement is a political wager of sorts, as the nation’s division could help — or harm — his level of electoral success come November.
Additionally, the president is coming off of a major gridlock surrounding religious liberty and the controversial contraceptive mandate. Despite his pledge to respect church rights, his track record is likely to make some people nervous — specifically when it comes to handling whether churches are forced to comply same-sex marriage.
“Some of the faith communities are going to be afraid that this is an attack against religious liberty,” Hunter claims he told the president while discussing his newfound views. Obama, of course, reassured him that this will not be an issue.
Even Jim Wallis, the liberal pastor who runs Sojourners, reiterated the need for the president to speak with more right-leaning churches who may disagree with his stance.
“We hope the president will reach out to people who disagree with him on this,” he said. “The more conservative churches need to know, need to be reassured that their religious liberty is going to be respected here.”
While these pleas are certainly understandable, so is doubt surrounding Obama’s promise to protect churches. Not long ago, the president claimed that conscience would be respected. Now, the Catholic Church is lamenting a birth control mandate that religious leaders call an overt attack on their freedoms.
(H/T: New York Times)