INQUIRER: In comments that stunned many who heard them, Sen. Vincent J. Fumo said yesterday that his colleagues in the General Assembly would support slavery if given the chance.
The remarks came during an Appropriations Committee hearing in Harrisburg on a bill that would define marriage as between a man and a woman – a measure Fumo opposes.
“What you are advocating here is that we take away the rights of a minority. And I don’t think that’s right,” Fumo told Gilbert Coleman, Jr., senior pastor of Freedom Christian Bible Fellowship in Philadelphia, during the hearing. “. . . If we introduced a bill on slavery, it might pass. That doesn’t make it right.”
“I doubt that sir,” responded Coleman, who testified in support of the measure.
“Oh, don’t bet on it in this General Assembly,” the Philadelphia Democrat shot back. “I know some people up here, especially on a secret ballot, it would be almost unanimous.” MORE
EDITOR’S NOTE: Despite the way this is already playing in the media, Fumo is not the villain here, and regular readers of Phawker know that we have shown the man no mercy in the past. No, the fault, dear Brutus, lies not with our indicted star, but with ourselves. Instead of just tossing this ‘slavery’ soundbyte in the spin cycle and setting it for ‘misplaced outrage’, the media would do well to examine the voting records of all the legislators in this august body with a fine tooth comb, especially when it comes to issues impacting minorities directly and indirectly. We have a hunch you just might find that all those crying foul and worse out in Harrisburg doth protest too much.
THE CONTEXT: The exchange came during a hearing on an anti-gay marriage bill. Bishop Gilbert Coleman Jr., the pastor that Fumo was addressing when the ‘slavery’ exchange occurred, is part of a coterie of black ministers
keepin’ the gay man down that vehemently oppose ‘special rights’ for gays. Up until recently, they were part of Karl Rove’s infamous wedge of so-called ‘values voters’ that got Bush re-elected.
JEFF DEENEY: Look closely, in the middle of the third column from the left [SEE ABOVE], and you will find Philly’s good Reverend Herbert Lusk. Reverend Lusk is a former Eagles running back who is credited by NFL Films as the first to ever kneel and pray in the end zone after scoring a touchdown. Reverend Herbert is well known to anyone with any dealings in the Francisville neighborhood because under the Bush administration his church, Greater Exodus Baptist Church (near the corner of Broad and Fairmount) ballooned from your standard neighborhood congregation into basically a megachurch with a couple thousand parishioners, a state of the art charter school (People for People) and a network of social service agencies, all of which I understand were funded by Bush’s faith based initiatives. In previous visits to Philadelphia, Bush has greeted the news media from Herbert’s church steps. This group that he and Reverend Coleman belong to, the High Impact Leadership Coalition, is characterized as such by the People for the American Way:
“Many critics claim that this group was formed and inspired by the GOP in an attempt to reach out to minorities on issues of homosexuality. Jasmyne Cannick, director of public relations at the Black AIDS Institute, says ‘When a group of black pastors decides that the number one priority for black Americans is the protection of heterosexual marriage, they’re doing the GOP’s dirty work.'” While I think Bush initially reached out to members of the black community in an effort to trade on their unfortunate homophobia to capture a new voting bloc, he has maintained strong ties to these groups through faith based initiatives that have sent the funding of what were relatively small community churches through the roof and transformed them into powerful urban hubs that teach a fervently anti-gay, anti-abortion message.
I will be interested to see what happens to both Reverend Lusk and Coleman’s funding streams next year when (please, dear God) presidential power transfers to the Democratic party. It’s pretty clear that they don’t have a friend in Fumo, or, one would suppose by extension, Farnese, either. Their power and money comes from the national level, and without that I’m not sure what they’re left with. Which is fine, well and good because there has been a disturbing trend in the churches of the black community nationwide towards the kind of fundamentalism, Biblical literalism, and fervent evangelism that we’ve seen generate homophobia and misogyny in the white extreme Christian right. The extreme Christian right is the extreme Christian right, whether the preacher in the pulpit be white or black, and I can’t think of any mainstream Philadelphian who thinks we need more of that in our city.
[Photo by JEFF FUSCO]