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To the Black Church: Practice What You Preach!

African-Americans are all for equal protection under the law-except when it comes to same-sex marriage. A new poll finds that 51 percent of Marylanders who vote regularly favor a law allowing same-sex marriages, compared to only 41 percent of African-American voters. The contributing factor to the disparity is the noteworthy influence of the Black Church. Religion has historically played a major role in the lives of AfricanAmericans. More than 80 percent of African-Americans consider themselves to have some religious beliefs, with at least half of them attending some religious activity at least once a week, according to the Pew Research Center. During the civil rights era, the Black Church was the center of the community. The church provided strength and solace to a community that was wounded and broken during what many would describe as the worst decades in our countrys history. It is not unusual for pastors and church leaders to be intimately involved with their church members private family matters like infidelity, domestic violence and even financial practices. Many of these pastors and church leaders exercise such a dominating influence over their church members to the point of brainwashing them to believe, act, think, and do as the pastor says. In the 2011 Maryland Legislative Session, a bill was introduced to legalize gay marriage, to the dismay of the Black Church and many African-Americans. It came as no surprise that the bill was shot down, due in large part to the highly influential African-American pastors and churches in Prince Georges County and Baltimore. The Black Church essentially hijacked the concept of equality for all when they went on an all out crusade to make sure that homosexuals would not be afforded the same rights as heterosexuals. Citing the Bible as the supreme authority to support their position that marriage should be defined as a union between a man and a woman, these pastors commanded their congregations to call, write, and demand that their state legislators vote against this bill. My Pastor even handed out a phone listing of all of the members of the Maryland General Assembly after Sunday service the week before the House was scheduled to vote on the bill and instructed his congregation of over 10,000 to do what we got to do to stop this foolishness!

Its difficult to reconcile how an institution that prides itself on compassion, support, and acts of human kindness can resort to such prejudice and bigotry to advance their own agenda while virtually stripping another of their civil rights. I left church that Sunday feeling very conflicted. I am a married, Christian woman who has no desire to live a homosexual lifestyle. I believe in the Bible and I choose to follow the principles of Christian faith. Conversely, I do not believe that everyone has to believe what I believe, or do what I do. As I walked to my car, staring at the phone listing, and replaying my Pastors words over in my mindI balled up the listing and threw it in the trash. Its appalling that the African-American community, MY community, a community that has a long history of oppression is not willing to step up to prevent another community from experiencing the same oppression. My grandparents taught me to help the underdog, to fight for the powerless, to be a voice for the voiceless. Just as there were Whites who fought for equality for African-Americans during the civil rights movement, we need to fight for the equality of the gay community. Shockingly, many African-Americans feel that being gay is a choice that individuals make, rather than a condition over which they have no control, such as the color of ones skin. I am a black man, an African-American, said Maryland State Delegate Emmett C. Burns. I cannot change my color, nor do I wish to do so. Those who are gay can disguise their propensity. Even in this legislature, 50 or 100 years ago gays and lesbians were here because they could disguise who they were. I was not here because I can never disguise who I am. Burns, a veteran of the civil rights movement believes theres no connection to the push for same-sex marriage and the civil rights movement of the 1960s. I couldnt disagree more. Religious freedom is a fundamental right, and we all have the right to practice whatever religious beliefs we deem necessary. The problem is, those religious beliefs and exercises have no place in a democracy where we all have the power of choice. I cant help but to wonder how the Black Church would react if a Muslim lawmaker introduced a bill

that would allow polygamy to be legal? Equal rights for all should unite African-Americans and homosexuals instead of starkly dividing them.