Black Leaders to Hillary Clinton on Religious Freedom and Black Abortions: ‘Don’t Black Lives Matter?’

In this July 8,2016, photo, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at the African Methodist Episcopal church national convention in Philadelphia. Clinton is struggling to make inroads among young Americans who overwhelmingly supported Bernie Sanders during the Democratic presidential primary, a worrisome sign as she tries to reassemble the coalition …
AP Photo/Matt Rourke

More than 20 national black leaders are challenging Hillary Clinton and her campaign for assaults on the black community via attacks on religious freedom, the promotion of abortion, and the ignorance of the prevalence of “black on black” murders and other crimes.

Black American leaders, including bishops of the major black churches, penned, “An Open Letter to Hillary Clinton Regarding Religious Freedom for Black America.” Dr. Jacqueline C. Rivers delivered the letter Monday to Clinton’s campaign in Brooklyn, New York.

Addressing Clinton, the leaders denounce the persistent narrative of her campaign, and those of other “demagogues,” that religious freedom laws in the United States are analogous to “the apartheid of Jim Crow” laws.

The letter reads:

Religious freedom is a precious right that we, as the leaders of the Black Church, must defend vigorously… Yet in 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 letter’s signers write, “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.”

The leaders continue that the condemnation of religious freedom laws as “historically and existentially equivalent to Jim Crow laws rests on false assertions.”

Quoting Clinton’s remarks in April of 2015 in which she said, “Far too many women are still denied access to reproductive health care and safe childbirth… deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed,” the black leaders assert, “For political leaders to call for changes in citizens’ beliefs is reminiscent of totalitarianism.”

The leaders also note the disproportionately high percentage of black babies aborted in the United States, nearly 40 percent of all abortions performed.

“Abortion in the black community has had a catastrophic impact,” they write to Clinton. “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?”

The black leaders say Clinton’s condescension toward religion and faith beliefs undermines what, historically, has kept the black American community together.

Even as they express their outrage of young black men killed by police officers, the leaders observe nevertheless that, “according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation over half of all murder victims in 2015 were black and, in the cases where the race of the perpetrator was known, nearly 90% of them were killed by other blacks.”

The leaders assert that eroding the religious freedom rights of the black church upends “the primary institution of our neighborhoods” and prevents the church from having the greatest impact on young black men.

“The work of the black church in our poor communities is of the utmost importance and the importance of our freedom to operate in accordance with our faith cannot be overstated,” they write.

The open letter to Clinton calls for a meeting to discuss how her administration would respond to the leaders’ issues, and, especially, how she would ensure the protection of the constitutional freedoms of all Americans.

The letter’s signers include: Presiding Bishop Charles E. Blake, Church of God in Christ, Los Angeles, CA; Dr. Jacqueline C. Rivers, Seymour Institute for Black Church & Policy Studies, Boston, MA; Bishop Lemuel F. Thuston, vice chairman, general assembly, Church of God in Christ; Bishop Gideon A. Thompson, Church of God, Boston, MA; Bishop Dr. Frank Madison Reid III, African Methodist Episcopal Church, Baltimore, MD; Bishop James W.E. Dixon, Baptist Church, Houston, TX; Apostle James I. Clark, Jr., Church of our Lord Jesus Christ; Bishop Tyrone L. Butler, Church of God in Christ, New York, NY; Bishop Charles E. Blake, author of Defending the Religious Freedom of the Black Church; Bishop Felton Smith, Church of God in Christ, Nashville, TN; Chairman Linwood Dillard, Church of God in Christ Memphis, TN; Reverend Dr. Jamal H. Bryant, African Methodist Episcopal, Baltimore, MD; Reverend Charles R. Harrison, United Methodist Church, Indianapolis, IN; Professor Frederick L. Ware, Howard School of Divinity, Washington, DC; Reverend Dr. Alonzo Johnson, Church of God in Christ Columbia, SC; Pastor Jamie Perdomo, Iglesia Cristiana Nueva Vida, East Boston, MA; Reverend Ronald C. Potter, Jackson, MI; Donna Desilus, Azusa Christian Community, Boston, MA; Bishop Talbot W. Swan, Church of God in Christ, Springfield, MA; Pastor Michael Golden, Church of God in Christ, Hampton, VA; Rev. Vernard Coulter, Missionary Baptist Church, Boston, MA; Pastor Egobudike Ezedi, Empowerment Christian Center, Boston, MA; Malcolm R. Rivers, Seymour Institute, Washington, DC; Rev. Dr. Rozario Slack, Church of God in Christ, Chattanooga, TN; Rev. Arthur Porter, Church of God in Christ, Denver, CO; Dr. Jamal D. Hopkins, Pasadena, CA; Rev. Mark V. Scott, Azusa Christian Community, Boston, MA.


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