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Conservative black leaders say African-Americans should go back to ‘50s values

Eight years after Katherine Boo wrote “The Marriage Cure” for The New Yorker — which explored the idea promulgated by the George W. Bush administration that marriage was the cure to black poverty — that idea is still very much alive in the black conservative movement.

The three-day Frederick Douglass Foundation ‘s 2011 Leadership Summit, which began Thursday in Washington, D.C., featured a panel Friday hosted by Care Net Vice President Dean Nelson, who told the audience: “It was more likely for a child in slavery to be born in an intact community than it is for the black family today.”

The other panelists -– the Rev. Michael Faulkner, pastor of New York City’s New Horizon Church; Pat Funderburk Ware, president and CEO of PFW Consultants who formerly worked for the Department of Health and Human Service’s Office of Adolescent Health; Bishop Harry Jackson Jr., president of the High Impact Leadership Coalition; and Gerard Henry, former Black Entertainment Television -– agreed that Christianity, abstinence and the preservation of heterosexual marriage should be at the top of the black political agenda.

Bishop Jackson suggested that a policy be created to force a man who impregnates a woman to marry her.

The Rev. Faulkner, Ware and Henry all admitted to having sex before marriage -– before they were “saved.” Ware admitted to having a divorce. And Henry, who argued that people should not even kiss before marriage, said when he was in high school he would “mess with girls in the stairway” before he found Christ.

The panelists were united on the idea that African-Americans have lost the traditional values they harbored before the Civil Rights Movement.

“Desegregation was one of the worst things that happened to African-Americans in this country,” Ware said, who elaborated that African-Americans lost their sense of community and who their leaders were.

“We lost our moral values,” she said. “Back then we didn’t talk about sex because we didn’t have to. If a girl got pregnant in my school, she had to drop out, and the boy who got her pregnant dropped out too, because he had to get a J-O-B.”

At that point, many members of audience nodded in agreement: “That’s right!”

In response to an audience question asking why more people are not outraged about Planned Parenthood wanting to wipe out the black community as has been frequently suggested by anti-abortion rights advocates, Ware said that many pro-abortion rights advocates believe that abortion is a right that should be available to all women. She explained abortion advocates argue that more emphasis should be put on improving the health and well-being of black women and on working to prevent unwanted pregnancy through policy and education.

“Or at least that’s one way to look at it,” Ware said.

Ireland native Pat Fagan, director of the Marriage & Religion Institute — a project of the Family Research Council — gave a presentation preceding the panel discussion, rapidly going through data that he said proves that marriage is the only answer for everything that’s going wrong in African-American communities and in the country as a whole.

He specified that he was referring to marriage between a man and a woman.

“We need to stop calling ourselves a family organization,” said Fagan, speaking at Friday’s panel titled “Pulpits Addressing Promiscuity: The Future of the Black Family and Church.” “Everyone’s for the family: Mao Zedong was for the family; Stalin was for the family; Hitler was for the family. What we’re for is marriage.”

Fagan, who began his professional career as a grade-school teacher before becoming a clinical psychologist, breezed through a PowerPoint presentation with graphs and charts taken largely from Adolescent Health Surveys and American Community Surveys showing that children who come from “intact” homes have higher GPAs and are less likely to go to jail or wind up in poverty than children who come from “broken” homes. He referred to children of divorce as products of “rejection.”

“The feminists have it totally wrong,” Fagan said. “A patriarchal family is the safest place for women and children. … Social policy has been a total failure; the government is going after things it can’t deliver.”

Fagan ended his presentation with a cautionary note: “What the Civil Rights Movement did was fantastic, but the breakdown of marriage is wiping out all of the gains. … If African-Americans can learn to rebuild marriage, they can become the elite leaders of the U.S. and lead us out of this crisis. Then the descendants of slavery will become the cultural leaders of this great society.”

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