The ads for Democratic congressional hopeful Carolene Mays, which are expected to debut today on radio, feature a glowing endorsement from the Rev. Jeffrey Johnson.
That's the same Johnson whose church held the funeral of U.S. Rep. Julia Carson, D-Indianapolis. Her grandson is now the 7th District incumbent.
Johnson's support for Mays, a state representative for Indianapolis, is only one of many signs that black clergy once unified behind Julia Carson may be pulled in many directions as the May 6 primary draws closer.
Not only is the field divided among three well-known black candidates, but one of them, Andre Carson, is a Muslim, further complicating the picture for some. With a little more than five weeks left until the primary, more ministers than usual remain uncommitted. And all of the candidates in the Democratic primary, including a fourth prominent contender, state Rep. David Orentlicher, D-Indianapolis, are working to secure their endorsements . . .
A key aspect of the uncertainty is the fact that Carson is Muslim. Though many black pastors say that should not be a factor -- King said it would be "petty" and constitute "prejudice" -- many still say it will be a concern.
I'm having a difficult time believing that Carson is having difficulty within this community because he's a Muslim as King's article suggests. That thinking is counter-intuitive, and I note that King's article attributes a quote on that point to nobody. Further, blacks voted as overwhelmingly in the special election in support of Carson as they traditionally vote in support of Democratic candidates when he faced an opponent who was Christian, albeit a white Republican at that. If Carson is having trouble within the black community winning support over his Democratic primary rivals, it's more likely that the problem is one of who is more qualified than Carson's religious faith.
The article once again demonstrates the widespread abuse of the nonprofit status of churches. As federally tax-exempt organizations, churches are prohibited from engaging in partisan political activities, which includes support for a candidate for public office. "Leading up to his special-election victory March 11, Carson and his surrogates visited 36 black churches," King writes. He adds, "Many pastors want to avoid legal prohibitions on political endorsements that might jeopardize their tax-exempt status." Nonetheless, the Rev. Jeffrey Johnson of Eastern Star church appears in ads for Carolene Mays endorsing her candidacy according to King's article. And as Advance Indiana previously reported, Light of the World's Bishop T.G. Benjamin "gave as close an endorsement as the IRS will allow from the pulpit to Congressman Carson" according to Carson supporter Wilson Allen when Carson recently attended church services there.