BELTSVILLE, Md.—Dozens of religious leaders from across Maryland and D.C. gathered in Prince George’s County on Friday to express their opposition to Question 6.
“We’re all here today not because of what we’re against, but because of what we’re for,” said Rev. Frank Reid of Bethel AME Church in Baltimore during a press conference at the Sheraton Washington North Hotel in Beltsville.
He stressed Question 6 opponents have dealt with the issue “very positively” and “tolerantly” without “putting anybody down or calling anybody names.” Reid added there is what he described as confusion going into Election Day.
“The first confusion is this is not just a Question 6 election,” he said. “This is also a presidential election. And there are many who want to confuse us and say that if you vote for this or against this you are voting for or against a certain party or a certain candidate. That is not true. This is a faith and freedom issue and it is possible to vote for a candidate and vote for or against Question 6, so we don’t want any confusion that we are here against one candidate or for another candidate. That is not our concern. Our focus is very clear on Question 6: Vote against Question 6 and then vote for whatever candidate you want.”
Bishop Angel Nuñez of Bilingual Christian Church in Baltimore questioned whether Question 6 will protect religious freedom as Gov. Martin O’Malley, Revs. Delman Coates of Mount Ennon Baptist Church in Prince George’s County and Donté Hickman of Southern Baptist Church in Baltimore and others who support the law continue to maintain.
“It seems like the language in the ballot goes out of its way to convince voters that churches will not be affected. In reality, non-profits, individuals and private businesses are at risk,” said Nuñez. “In the actual law, it is clear that any church that receives state funds is not safe.”
Reverend Pierre Bynum of the Family Research Council argued Catholic Charities was forced to end adoptions in several states because they refused to place children with gay parents. He said more than 60,000 people have signed a petition urging Gallaudet University to reinstate Dr. Angela McCaskill, a senior administrator who remains on administrative leave for supporting the referendum on Maryland’s same-sex marriage law.
“The problem is we’re going to see that over and over and over times thousands,” said Bynum. “Since just this petition went out to give people an opportunity to vote, there’s so many different things that have taken place including all of the people who signed the petition having their names published in a newspaper and getting telephone calls and visits from people who are antagonistic toward them.”
A Goucher College poll released earlier this week found 55 percent of Marylanders support marriage rights for same-sex couples in the state, compared to 39 percent who oppose them. A Baltimore Sun survey conducted between Oct. 20-23 noted only 46 percent of respondents would vote for the law.
Benjamin Jealous, president of the Baltimore-based National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and NAACP Chair Emeritus Julian Bond have both pointed out Question 6 protects religious freedom.
Reverend Alfred Deas, Jr., of Metropolitan AME Church in Cumberland disagreed with the civil rights organization’s support of Question 6 and marriage rights for same-sex couples.
“I unfortunately believe that they have stepped out on I believe the wrong side of history,” he said, noting he took part in the 1963 March on Washington with a local NAACP chapter. “It is not a civil rights issue. Gays have not gone through what we’ve gone through. And to compare the two is just wrong.”
The press conference also took place two weeks after Rev. Robert Anderson of Colonial Baptist Church in Randallstown suggested during a town hall meeting on Question 6 that those who practice homosexuality and approve it are “deserving of death.” A California pastor described gay men as “predators” who seek to indoctrinate children during an anti-gay marriage gathering that Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, Maryland Marriage Alliance Chair Derek McCoy, Bishop Harry Jackson of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville and roughly 100 others attended at a Baltimore church on Oct. 21.
McCoy again defended Anderson when the Washington Blade asked him and other assembled clergy to respond to criticisms over what Question 6 supporters maintain is the use of homophobic rhetoric against the law.
“Nobody here endorses violence, endorses bullying of any sort in any stance,” said McCoy. “We stand collectively to love our community, to love the constituents who are in our churches and within our broader community in the state of Maryland.”
He said those who criticized Anderson’s use of scripture to speak against Question 6 misinterpreted his remarks.
“As a matter of fact, we believe when Dr. Anderson was using that, it was taken grossly out of context,” said McCoy.
Pastor John K. Jenkins, Sr., of First Baptist Church of Glenarden in Upper Marlboro acknowledged the church has not previously “responded well to the homosexual lesbian community.” Reid referred to Michael Eric Dyson of Georgetown University who asked on MSNBC shortly after President Obama publicly backed marriage rights for same-sex couples whether those within the black church who oppose the issue want to become “sexual rednecks.”
“That kind of language has no place in America,” he said. “We should be able to disagree without being disagreeable.”
Father Erik Arnold of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, Pastor Anthony Maclin of the Collective Empowerment Group in Riverdale, Jackson and an imam from the Islamic Center of Washington were among those who also attended the press conference.