Anchorage’s African American pastors rebuff push to equate gay & civil rights

Are homosexual rights a natural extension or a distortion, of the 1960s’ Civil Rights Movement?

This question is under debate in Alaska and across much of the country.

In Anchorage, homosexual rights advocates are attempting to rally support for a proposed homosexual and transgender nondiscrimination law by comparing their effort to the historic civil rights struggles of African-Americans. So far, the comparison has met with resistance from local African-American pastors.

“They have a right to have their position on this, but I don’t think they should compare the gay rights movement to the African-Americans’ position,” said Rev. Alonzo Patterson, a prominent African-American pastor in Anchorage and a long-time civil rights activist.

Patterson, 74, is former president of the NAACP in both Fairbanks and Anchorage and the senior pastor at Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church, home to about 1,200 members. Patterson marched in civil rights demonstrations in the 1960s but said the current homosexual and transgender agenda is a break from that historic movement.

“The core of it is this — I was born an African-American — I had no choice,” he told the Catholic Anchor. “As an African-American, I should have the same inalienable rights as everyone else — I had no say as to who I was, no more than any other American did.”

He contrasted this with homosexuality, which he said involves practicing an “immoral behavior.”

“To say that this is the same as the African-American civil rights cause is a major insult,” Patterson added. “Every African American should be up in arms and for the most part they are.”

NAACP PRESIDENT CHALLENGED

In fact many black pastors in Anchorage took issue with Wanda Green, the current president of the ACLU in Anchorage when she wrote a Jan. 11 column for the Anchorage Daily News in which she urged voters to pass the Proposition 5 ballot measure on April 3. The proposed law would establish “sexual orientation” and “transgender identity” as protected classes under the city’s nondiscrimination code.

On March 8 in Anchorage, local pastors gathered to form a coalition of more than 100 Protestant and Catholic clergy who oppose an upcoming ballot initiative regarding legal protection for homosexual and transgender behavior. — CatholicAnchor.org
“Since 1909, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) has led the mission to promote equality in the United States of American,” Green wrote. “That is why as the leader of the NAACP Anchorage and a member of this community I believe our gay and transgender neighbors should be given the same legal protections the rest of us already enjoy.”

Patterson has known Green since she was a child and has served in Christian ministry with her father Pastor William Green. But Patterson said it would be a mistake to think that Wanda Green has spoken on behalf of the wider African-American community.

“Wanda is a wonderful young woman, but she was born in a generation that has not suffered many of the atrocities that many of us senior African Americans have,” Patterson said.

Pastor Green told the Catholic Anchor that he agrees with his daughter in so far as she is advocating for basic human rights for all people. However, he did not think that the homosexual lifestyle should be especially protected under the law.

“Rather, they should be given equal rights – the same as any other person,” he said. “Everyone deserves basic human rights. I don’t condemn them. I condemn the sin but I love the individual and pray they will come to repentance.”

INTERNAL DEBATE

Patterson noted that the national NAACP is in the midst of an internal struggle over how to approach the homosexual rights movement. Current NAACP President Ben Jealous is a vocal supporter of homosexual and transgender rights. But prominent national NAACP board members disagree with the direction Jealous is taking the organization.

Last year, during the NAACP annual convention in Los Angeles, the group held its first town hall to discuss homosexual and transgender issues. News videos of the event show a heated debate and division among the leadership.

Recent polls by the Pew Forum show that a majority (62%) of African-American Protestants do not favor laws recognizing homosexual “marriage.” In Maryland, in fact, a large coalition of black pastors is leading the charge to repeal the state’s newly approved same-sex “marriage” law.

Patterson said the homosexual agenda being pushed by some NAACP national leaders is contrary to the views of most African-Americans, including those in Anchorage.

“I think their support for this agenda is going to hurt the NAACP in many areas of support,” he said.

Patterson said local homosexual activists are merely “using” NAACP Anchorage President Green “as an icon of support for their views.”

DEFINING HUMAN RIGHTS

One of the leading advocates for the Anchorage ballot measure is Jeffrey Mittman, executive director of ACLU of Alaska. He has given a number of public talks in the lead up to the April 3 vote. In February, he spoke at YWCA Alaska for an event titled “Civil Rights, Then & Now” in which he tried to make comparisons between homosexual and civil rights.

But Rev. Ken Friendly, an African-American pastor of the 1,000 member Lighthouse Christian Fellowship in Anchorage, said equating the homosexual movement with civil rights fails to do justice to the historic civil rights struggle.

“Before the Civil Rights Movement, African-Americans, in some circles, were not considered real human beings,” he told the Catholic Anchor. “Gays have never been denied the rights and freedoms that black people were denied.”

“Gays and lesbians have rights under the First Amendment, the Fourteen Amendment and our state constitutions,” Friendly added. “These provide protections for every human being.”

Fundamental human rights are not based on a person’s sexual preference, he explained.

“But the gay rights movement is not about basic human rights. It’s about a sexual behavior being elevated to a minority status, a special class with special rights,” Friendly said. “I don’t think that is something that Reverend King was shooting for.”

Rev. Frank Thompson, an African American pastor of Anchorage’s Hosanna Fellowship and president of the Anchorage Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast agrees.

“Anybody who says this is a civil rights issue is off course. This is not what Reverend Martin Luther King was fighting for. He was trying to bring people out of oppression,” said Thompson, who at 78 years old, remembers marching in civil rights demonstrations as a young man.

“A lot of them now don’t think the way Reverend King thought — there’s a big divide,” he said of younger activists who equate homosexual rights with civil rights.

Thompson said no one should have the right to force others to support their sexual lifestyle.

“This is not about discrimination against their civil rights, but disagreement with their sin,” he said. “They want their sin to be accepted everywhere. That’s where we differ.”

Patterson said he fully expects the African American community in Anchorage to give a strong argument against Proposition 5. On March 8, dozens of African American pastors joined with a larger coalition of more than 100 Anchorage pastors to speak out together against the ballot measure.

“The senior pastors in the African American community totally oppose this,” Patterson said. “I don’t know of an African American pastor in Alaska that supports this proposition.”