Some ‘Response’ endorsers unfamiliar with AFA or anti-minority comments
American Family Association leaders’ attacks on minority groups are among the reasons LGBT, faith-based and grassroots groups have joined in denouncing Gov. Rick Perry’s August prayer rally in Houston, which is being bankrolled by AFA.
In one blog post, AFA’s director of issue analysis for government and public policy Bryan Fischer, claimed government welfare encourages the African-American community to “rut like rabbits.”
Despite the ensuing controversy over those and other racially charged remarks from AFA leaders, 11 of the prayer event’s 58 endorsers are black. When contacted by the Texas Independent, some said they hadn’t been aware of the AFA’s involvement or Fischer’s comments, but that they weren’t bothered and hoped the event could be an occasion to pray for the end of racism.
Fischer made his remarks in an April blog post on the AFA website, “Jesus groomed his apostles for public office“:
Welfare has destroyed the African-American family by telling young black women that husbands and fathers are unnecessary and obsolete. Welfare has subsidized illegitimacy by offering financial rewards to women who have more children out of wedlock. We have incentivized fornication rather than marriage, and it’s no wonder we are now awash in the disastrous social consequences of people who rut like rabbits.
And children are the ones who get chewed up. Welfare, as Walter Williams has pointed out, has done what slavery, racism and Jim Crow laws could not do: destroy the black family.
Fischer later changed that language in the post, as Right Wing Watch noted, perhaps in response to charges of racism, supplanting the phrase ‘rut like rabbits’ with a broader demographic of those affected by welfare:
We have incentivized fornication rather than marriage, and it’s no wonder we are now awash in the disastrous social consequences of those who engage in random and reckless promiscuity, whether they are Caucasian, Hispanic, or African-American.
The post drew criticism from the Southern Poverty Law Center and various media outlets, adding to Fischer’s prolific record of targeting minority and non-Christian communities, including homosexuals, Muslims, Jews and Native Americans.
“Response” endorser Timothy Johnson, founder and national chairman of the Fredrick Douglass Foundation, a North Carolina public policy organization that promotes free market thinking and limited government, told the Texas Independent he was unfamiliar with AFA, its controversial commentary or its sponsorship of the prayer event.
“I was not invited by AFA. I didn’t even know they were sponsoring the event, but I don’t think it would have made a difference,” he said. “Praying for this country is more important than the singular comments made to certain groups.”
Johnson, who is black, said the focus of the Aug. 6 event is simply to address the challenges facing the nation.
As a liaison to black, faith-based organizations and conservative candidates and elected officials, Johnson said his organization routinely diverges from opinions expressed by the Republican Party. He said he is accustomed to working with groups he may not agree with.
“Some things can be said with better word choice but not every statement that comes out as derogatory is wrong. Some statements that come across as offensive should not be taken offensively by the entire community,” said Johnson. “We too often get caught up assuming all minorities will be offended by certain comments directed at them.”
Pastor Fred Berry of the Los Angeles-based Azusa Street Mission, another “Response” endorser, told the Independent he is also unfamiliar with AFA.
Berry, who is black, said he joined the event, in part, to pray for the removal of deep-seated racism and the “old ways” that have separated people. But he said he agrees with Fischer that welfare has done a “great deal of damage” to black families.
“This is a typical statement echoed by a lot of people, I am not surprised by it. My concern would be if it is meant as a racial slur or as a statement of fact,” said Berry. “Welfare has been more destructive to the African-American community than slavery, racism or all the other ‘isms’ because it has taken away the culture of work–families were stronger before welfare.”
Despite the controversy, Berry said the call to prayer is more important than comments or opinions expressed by AFA, however offensive they may seem.
Rev. Carolyn Stovall Gilbert, president and founder of Texas-based Missionaries With The Vision, was also not familiar with AFA or its comments directed toward minority communities. Gilbert, another “Response” endorser who is black, did not wish to directly address Fischer’s statements. She would rather, she said, focus on prayer that will “repent us all.”