Bishop Harry Jackson is one of the leading anti-gay voices working to repeal Maryland’s proposed marriage equality law in November, and he’s being bankrolled heavily by the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), according to a new report from Mother Jones.
NOM believes that stirring up anti-gay-marriage fervor among black voters has helped it win referendums in other states by pitting two groups of loyal Democrats against each other. As internal documents released during Maine‘s investigation into the group’s finances asserted, “The strategic goal is to drive a wedge between gays and blacks—two key Democratic constituencies.”
Jackson is exactly the kind of African American spokesperson the NOM memo envisions. “There’s been a hijacking of the civil rights movement by the radical gay movement,” he said on CNN after backing California‘s Proposition 8 in 2008. “You can’t equate your sin with my skin.” He has received $20,000 from NOM’s education fund and has rallied support for same-sex marriage bans in Florida and Washington, DC, where he joined Councilmember Marion Barry to oppose a marriage equality bill in 2009.
Jackson has actually been a central player in the right’s effort to try to pit the African American and LGBT communities against each other, both during and prior to his relationship with NOM.
Jackson And The “Wedge Strategy”
In 2009, People for the American Way (PFAW) published a report documenting Jackson’s history of acting as a “point man for the wedge strategy” — a star in the Religious Right’s efforts to reach out to African American Christians:
Jackson has big ambitions. He sees himself as a game changer in the culture war, someone who can help conservative Christians “take the land” by bringing about a political alliance between white and black evangelicals. Religious Right leaders see him that way, too, which is why they’ve helped Jackson build his public profile.
Instead of merely acting as a conservative ambassador to the African American community, however, Jackson has focused his “game changer” approach on driving a wedge between African Americans and potential progressive allies, including LGBT people. According to the PFAW report:
While Jackson failed miserably in his efforts to convince African American Christians to vote against Obama last year, he played an active role in organizing religious coalitions that helped pass anti-gay initiatives in California, Florida, and Arizona. Those efforts reflected Jackson’s primary strategy for building a multi-racial Religious Right: using attacks on gay rights and abortion as a wedge between African American churchgoers and their political allies in the civil rights and progressive communities.
Jackson pushes that wedge hard, denouncing abortion as “black genocide” and decrying what he calls the “hijacking” of the civil rights movement by Satan-inspired gay-rights activists who he says have declared war on the church and religious liberty. (Emphasis added)
While Jackson has adopted the “wedge” strategy on a number of different issues — in March he called Obama’s contraceptive mandate an effort to “control black breeding” — it’s been especially prevalent in his approach to opposing LGBT equality. After California’s approval of Proposition 8, for example, Jackson accused LGBT activists of “hijacking” the civil rights movement, adding that there was “a measure of racism in the gay movement.”
Jackson recently argued that the “the black community is in an adulterous relationship with Obama” after the president announced his support for marriage equality (despite surging support for same-sex marriage among African Americans). Jackson also suggested that Obama had been paid by gay activists to reverse his position, stating:
“We don’t believe that really was the president’s intent. Others have given high fives in the backroom saying, ‘he got paid.’ We don’t really know what the intent of the president is except that we know that is not just an isolated incident. Some further action will follow.”
In fact, accusing pro-equality African American leaders of having been corrupted by gay activists is a common tactic of Jackson’s wedge strategy. According to PFAW:
Just before the 2006 elections, in a piece titled “Raped or Represented: An Open Letter to Black Americans,” he wrote, “For the last few years, I have had a mental image of many of our popular black leaders shuffling into smoke-filled back rooms and receiving ‘twenty pieces of silver’ in exchange for the black community’s vote.” He wrote that “Some of the most well-known black civil rights organizations have sold out the black community” by supporting laws to protect gays from discrimination on the job. In his 2008 book with Tony Perkins, he accused the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights coalition of being “co-opted by the radical gay movement.” (p 165) And just last fall, he charged that the NAACP had abandoned the black family by supporting marriage equality. He also slammed the NAACP on Inspiration TV, saying it is “crazy” to say gay marriage is a civil right.
Jackson And NOM
While Jackson’s individual activism is disturbing on its own, the best example of his fondness for anti-gay race baiting comes from close relationship with NOM – an organization that’s spent the past several year openly using race as a weapon to mobilize anti-gay voters in states like Maryland and New York.
After NOM’s race baiting “wedge” memos were released earlier this year, Jackson broke with organizations like the NAACP and National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC) and rushed to NOM’s defense. On April 16, Jackson wrote a “special message” to NOM’s supporters which assued gay rights activists of using “ugly insinuations and outright lies” to try and “tear our coalition apart.” Without specifically referencing NOM’s memos, Jackson wrote:
The National Organization for Marriage has done so much to protect marriage, not only in Maryland, but in similar battles all across the country.
It’s no wonder groups like the Human Rights Campaign and The New York Times are trying to tear our coalition apart.
My answer? Not a chance!
The ugly insinuations and outright lies I have seen over the past two weeks are nothing short of reprehensible. They’re trying to create the impression that NOM is exploiting racial division—using Blacks and Hispanics to further its political agenda.
Nothing could be further from the truth. (Emphasis original)
Jackson continued his defense of NOM in a column for Glenn Beck’s news site The Blaze, claiming that evidence of the organization’s race baiting was nothing more than “mythology” created by LGBT activists in order to explain minority opposition to marriage equality.
Despite Jackson’s explanations, NOM continued its divisive tactics in the wake of the controversy, blaming “rich white guys” for promoting same-sex marriage. NOM even produced a video, prominently featuring Jackson, in which black and Latino anti-gay activists rejected equating marriage equality to a civil rights issue — the exact kind of race baiting described in the memos.
And in early 2011, Louis Marinelli — a former NOM employee who left the organization and became a supporter of marriage equality – revealed that NOM had actually begun “exploiting” non-white supporters as part of its “public relations strategy.”
If Jackson was a true black leader, then he should have been demanding answers from NOM for its race-baiting and its attempt to use black people as soulless pawns. But instead, he not only provides cover for it, but participates in this exploitation.