October 4, 2012 by SquarePegDem
The Daily Beast recently published, Is the Black Vote Really in Play?, wherein Brooklyn mega-church pastor Rev. A.R. Bernard sets the record straight on an AP story linking him to an alleged movement by black ministers to boycott President Obama’s re-election over his support for same-sex marriage. Relevant passages clarifying Rev. Bernard’s position is excerpted below:
When respected New York-based Senior Pastor A.R. Bernard told a well-known media outlet that he was still undecided on whom he would vote for in the upcoming presidential election, some took it to be a stinging indictment of Barack Obama and his recent support of same-sex marriage.
Bernard is the founder of the predominantly black Christian Cultural Center in New York, a church that regularly hosts the likes of Denzel and Pauletta Washington and boasts a membership of more than 40,000. Bernard’s reported ambivalence ended up placing him into the often-referenced yet camera-shy group of black ministers said to be actively suggesting to their members that they simply not vote at all on Nov. 6th, in response to Obama’s same-sex marriage stance.
Rev. Bernard, whose endorsement has often been courted by local and national politicians, says he was none too pleased with reports that accused him of opposing votes for Obama simply because he questioned the president’s opinion and timing on same-sex marriage. Bernard has spent the last week attempting to clarify and differentiate between how he views the first black president’s controversial decision and what he actually plans to do about it.
“After what we’ve gone through as a people, I’d never suggest not voting to my members and I’m not sure that many other pastors would either,” Rev. Bernard says firmly. “I’ve heard about ministers telling this to their members in the media, but I have not actually met one or spoken with one doing so. We’re having a voter’s registration event at my church next month, which further illustrates why the assumption that I tell my members not to vote is ridiculous.”
Rev. Bernard adds that what he won’t be doing is telling his members exactly who to vote for.
“I do think it was an unnecessary political risk for the president to take, given that particular voting block was in favor of him anyway,” says Rev. Bernard. “I do think that announcement caused some of us to question what direction he’s taking the country in, but that in no way suggests not voting or not judging the president’s entire record as a whole before deciding where your vote will go. The president has done some very impressive work in the face of major obstacles over the last four years and that can’t be denied.”
Though frustrated by Obama’s decision, Rev. Bernard says he feels African Americans are ultimately aware of what’s at stake most for people of color in 2012.
‘’There are moral rights and there are civil rights and we understand that completely,” he says. “But there are tenets of my faith that are guided by my religious beliefs and that’s going to always be there. That said, President Obama isn’t in office to be our rabbi or pastor in chief. He is our president and I tell my members to judge and vote based on that.”