Last week, the pastor of the biggest (Southern) Baptist Church in Dallas, the nation’s ninth largest city, publicly endorsed Gov. Rick Perry for president. Rev. Robert Jeffress endorsed Perry not from his pulpit, or within the walls of his First Baptist Church, but at the Values Voter Summit in Washington; in full view of the national political media.
Ministers – Protestants, Catholic and Jewish – have endorsed political candidates at the national, state and local levels for years. Not as leaders of their churches or religious institutions, but as private American citizens, as the Constitution and the Internal Revenue Service allows.
Last week, my friend and award-wining journalist WTHR/Channel 13’s Sandra Chapman reported on Rev. Jeffrey Johnson, pastor of Indianapolis’ largest predominantly African-American church (and one of the largest churches overall in the area) endorsing Melina Kennedy in a radio ad.
The Kennedy ad had run for nearly two weeks before Channel 13 discovered a Black pastor publicly endorsing a Democratic mayoral candidate.
Chapman’s story quoted an unnamed spokesperson at Christian Theological Seminary (CTS) saying they’d “never heard of a clergy member publicly endorsing a candidate.”
Obviously, the folks at CTS don’t remember Rev. Jerry Falwell, Focus on the Family’s Dr. James Dobson, Rabbi Baruch Korff or Father Charles Coughlin or other clergy who have publicly endorsed candidates in past history. They even forgot an ordained Presbyterian minister who endorsed candidates during his 16-year tenure as Indianapolis mayor.
(Note: on Monday, in a copycat move, Mayor Greg Ballard’s campaign started running an ad on one Black station voiced by Rev. James Jackson, an African-American minister).
Neither CTS nor Chapman and her producers and bosses at Channel 13 seem to remember that Indianapolis Black clergy have endorsed candidates on Black radio in the past, both in paid campaign ads, and on their radio programs for decades.
During his long running early morning WTLC program, Rev. Mozel Sanders openly endorsed candidates and opposed others. WTLC’s long running Saturday morning “Operation Breadbasket” regularly featured Rev. Andrew Brown and Dr. Thomas Brown and other clergy touting favored candidates.
Dr. Brown and Rev. Sanders were in political commercials in the past. Other ministers have as well. Other local ministers have run for office and aired their own radio ads promoting their candidacies.
I don’t have a problem with Chapman’s story. I do have a problem with local white-oriented media’s continued superficial coverage of political campaigns in Indianapolis which routinely ignore the attitudes and concerns of African-American voters.
In the mayor and council races, 25 percent of the pool of eligible voters is African-American. Last year, statewide, a greater percent of African-Americans (42.8 percent) voted than did whites (39.8 percent). The near sweep Democrats had in last year’s county and township elections was driven on the strength of Black voters. So, it is reasonable that at least a quarter of expected voters Nov. 8th will be Black.
How Blacks vote and in what strength will have a major determination in who will be the next mayor. How African-Americans feel about the issues and the depth and breadth of the Black vote is a legitimate story for the city’s media to cover.
The mainstream media continues to ignore the Black community during elections. Many editors, news directors, producers and reporters at the TV stations and the Star are new to Indianapolis. Many still believe Blacks predominantly live in the “inner city” and the few Blacks they know aren’t representative of our entire community.
Question? How can local media analyze the politics of Indianapolis and that Black voters are a significant voting group, when none of the local media have any Black reporters regularly covering politics or government?
This is a close election. How our community votes will determine the winner. It’s a story Channel 13 and others should be exploring. But sadly, I doubt they will.
Finally, if Channel 13 wanted to do a great public service, they could take some of those millions they used to spend airing Oprah and use it to conduct a serious, extensive poll on the mayor’s race. How can you be Indy’s News Leader when you can’t even conduct a poll in the most important mayor’s race in years?
What I’m hearing in the streets
A year ago, this column exposed plans by the Republican City-County Council to illegally redistrict the council using 2000 Census data. Now, they’re back to their illegal, unethical ways again.
Without taking a vote, council President Ryan Vaughn OKd a $225,000 contract to Republican politico David Brooks to not only redistrict the council, but also make boundary adjustments to existing precincts.
The reprecincting effort is mandated by the state to county executives (the mayor). Yet the mayor’s minions delegated this graft to Vaughn and the council.
State law clearly mandates that council redistricting must take place two years after the Census is conducted. That’s 2012, not 2011. Redistricting by a lame duck council is not only illegal, it’s politically sleazy.
Worse, Brooks’ spouse is a candidate for 5th District Congress, which includes Marion County precincts her husband might be redrawing. That is possible ethics and conflict of interest violations.
Council President Vaughn should tear up Brooks’ contract and he should return all the cash to the city/county treasury. Redistricting should be done by the City-County Council elected a month from now. Not in a rump session possibly dominated by losers.
* * * * *
Dr. John Merriweather always had a smile on his face and a positive word on his lips whenever you met him. Merriweather, a Marion County Sheriff’s Department chaplain for some 30 years and a pastor of his own church died last week. Merriweather, 69, was a positive presence in the twin worlds of ministry and law enforcement. He was a beacon of hope to the bereaved during times of sadness and loss. My deepest sympathies to his family and friends.
* * * * *
During the Golden Years of WTLC-FM during the 1980s, Kelly Karson was a major force. The station’s midday host and music director, Karson, whose real name was Frederick Gordon, entertained Indy with a mischievous sense of humor and old fashioned common sense. Karson died last week, but leaves behind many positive memories of those who listened to him faithfully or met him in the community. My sincerest sympathies to his family.
See ‘ya next week.
You can email comments to Amos Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.