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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Anti-Obama Black Pastors Group has Deep Conservative Ties, Records Show

Originally posted 8/10/12 at Religion News Service

Since the Rev. William Owens launched his national campaign in May calling on African-Americans to withdraw their support of President Obama because of his stance on gay marriage, he has claimed the backing of 3,700 black clergy and touted his organization as predominantly Democratic.

But Owens and his group, the Coalition of African-American Pastors, are drawing criticism from black leaders and the political left who note Owens' long-standing ties with GOP politicians. They charge CAAP misrepresents itself as a nonpartisan grass-roots organization when it is actually backed financially by right-leaning conservative groups.

"He is the poster person of conservative evangelicals … who are trying to use this as an emotional wedge issue to divide the black community," said the Rev. Amos Brown, pastor of the Third Baptist Church in San Francisco and a protege of the civil rights leader Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Owens has become an outspoken critic of Obama since the president announced in May that he was switching his position on gay marriage. The pastor has railed against Obama in cable news network interviews and has held a series of news conferences warning that Obama is in danger of losing black voters' support.

He has also vowed to collect 100,000 churchgoers' signatures in support of "traditional" marriage and plans to hold an Aug. 16 rally in Memphis, his hometown, to focus attention on the issue. "We will see that the black community is informed that the president is taking them for granted while pandering to the gay community," he said last week.

The coalition describes itself on its website as a "nonpartisan group of truthfully mostly Democrats." But interviews and a review of tax documents reveal deep connections with the right.

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