"We believe, God, you have brought forth a man, in Barack Obama," Girton prayed amid the circle of pastors gathered at the Kennedy-King monument, "to lead us during our time of need." He got plenty of "Amens."
The Rev. Charles Harrison, leader of the broader citywide effort among more than 100 black churches to get people to vote early, on Sunday, said such a pro-Obama view is not what the overall drive is about, and that some black churches are led by Hillary Rodham Clinton supporters.
But among the subset gathered at the Kennedy-King monument -- pastors of small to midsize churches brought together by leaders of two ministerial groups -- there was no holding back. "We feel that Senator Obama is the one to bring hope and to bring unity," said the Rev. Rayford Brown, president of the Baptist Ministers Alliance. He, like the others, emphasized he was speaking only for himself. "What we are saying is that Senator Barack Obama is the one that is going to bring about this change."
The Rev. Fitzhugh Lyons, president of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, described the moment as "history-making."
"The White House was built by slave labor," Lyons said. "It is going to be a black man to go into the White House for the first time in the history of the country."
Of course, the IRS should be taking notice of these activities, but the person who should be waking up to what's taking place is Mayor Greg Ballard. After naming a member of the black clergy as his deputy mayor of neighborhoods, Rev. Olgen Williams, his administration has increasingly pandered to this clique. This past week, Mayor Ballard named another black minister and friend of Williams, Rev. Doug Hairston, to run the Front Porch Alliance. At the press conference, you saw the faces of several black ministers standing with Mayor Ballard and Williams. Noticeably missing from the press conference were any non-African-American neighborhood leaders. Are white neighborhoods not a part of the Front Porch Alliance? There is a troubling concern that Williams intends to funnel millions of our taxpayer dollars to his black clergy friends through the Front Porch Alliance under the guise of fighting crime, helping troubled youth and cleaning up neighborhoods. In the past, these programs have produced dubious results and raise serious questions about public funds being used for "religious purposes." One of this biggest recipients so far has been "Peace In The Streets", a program run by Williams' own son at the westside neighborhood organization Williams ran before becoming deputy mayor.
Mayor Ballard needs to remember who elected him mayor. None of these black clergy helped with his election last November. And that's the way it should be. They aren't allowed to use their churches' nonprofit status to engage in partisan political activities. People have attempted to explain to me that Ballard believes he won election last November because these black clergy told their church members to stay home on election day to deny Mayor Bart Peterson re-election to a third term. That's not what happened. People were fed up with rising taxes, out of control crime and the ethical lapses the Peterson administration and the Democratic-controlled council brought us. Mayor Ballard should never forget that.