Grammy Award-winning gospel singer Donnie McClurkin, who is African-American and also a pastor, is furious that he was dumped from the roster of performers at “Reflections on Peace: From Gandhi to King,” a city-sponsored concert on August 10 at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, honoring the 50th anniversary of King’s March on Washington. He should be furious; so should any authentic follower of Dr. King. By targeting McClurkin, lesser men than King shamed his legacy by showing disdain for principles the martyred civil rights leader fought for, like tolerance, courage, honesty and inclusiveness. You see, McClurkin’s politically incorrect views on homosexuality rendered him, to the arbiters of political discourse, unfit to perform.
Courage among the District’s political leaders is almost in as short supply as trustworthiness, as city Mayor Vincent Gray demonstrated by caving to complaints made by, his office explained, a dozen people, including local gay activist and longtime civil rights advocate Phil Pannell. Pannell called the gospel singer’s public statements on homosexuality “vile.” Wow, a dozen people and one prominent activist! Pretty near a whole nation was opposed to King when he started his crusade for civil rights, and his successors can’t mount the courage to tell a dozen people advocating political discrimination to pound sand.
Pannell and other LGBT voices argued that McClurkin’s participation in the event would be at odds with King’s call for ending discrimination and injustice against all people, so the city should discriminate against him. Why do I think Dr. King would disagree? I think that because it’s the antitheses of what King believed and stood for, that’s why. McClurkin’s crime is that he sincerely believes that molestation as a child had caused him to grow up gay, and that he was able to become heterosexual through will and prayer. Thus he believes, to all appearances sincerely, that gays can become straight, placing him in the same category as Russia, Rep. Michele Bachmann, and many others. McClurkin’s beliefs indeed cause problems for the gay rights movement, as they easily translate into the contention that being gay is a choice, a bad habit, a perversion or a form of emotional disorder, all of which undermine claims of legitimacy and equality. However, McClurkin has never preached hatred of gays or tried to marginalize them. Reacting to his firing, the singer said that it was “…intolerant. These are bully tactics, simply because of stances I took. Never, ever demeaning, never, every derogatory of any lifestyle. But this is a civil rights infringement situation. Imagine that, in the 21st-century, 2013, I, a black man, have been asked to not attend because of politics.”
It’s not hard to imagine, in the Capital of a nation where political orientation is regularly linked to treason, bigotry, cruelty, stupidity, corruption and racism as a matter of course. It is still a disgrace to the memory, words and principles of Martin Luther King.
Gray and his government couldn’t even be straightforward in announcing McClurkin’s rejection, saying, through the event-sponsoring D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities, that “a mutual decision was reached between the DCCAH and his management team that it was best for him to withdraw from the event.” The Mayor’s spokesperson, Doxie McCoy, peddled the same tale, saying that “the Arts and Humanities Commission and Donnie McClurkin’s management decided that it would be best for him to withdraw because the purpose of the event is to bring people together.” That was a lie, as the mayor eventually had to confirm. There was no mutual decision; it was a unilateral firing.
McCoy’s deceptive spin, however, was still useful in its transparent Orwellian hypocrisy. From noting that “the purpose of the event is to bring people together,” it went on to say that the event was “about peace, love and justice for all.”
It’s about peace, but a performer’s views on his own homosexuality disqualified him from participating. It’s about love, but gay activists hate Ronnie McClurkin and anyone who doesn’t agree with them, so he has to be shunned. It’s about justice, but McClurkin should be embarrassed, stigmatized and insulted because the Commission, filled with incompetent political patronage appointees (like the rest of the bloated D.C. bureaucracy), didn’t do its due diligence and invited McClurkin without minimal research on who he is. And of course, it’s about civil rights, and McClurkin is being punished, by a municipal government, because of controversial speech and political views, which are supposedly respected and protected…at the Martin Luther King Memorial, more than anywhere.
“You know my friends,” said King, “there comes a time when people get tired of being trampled by the iron feet of oppression … If we are wrong, the Supreme Court of this nation is wrong. If we are wrong, the Constitution of the United States is wrong. And if we are wrong, God Almighty is wrong. If we are wrong, Jesus of Nazareth was merely a utopian dreamer that never came down to Earth. If we are wrong, justice is a lie, love has no meaning.”
America’s values and principles cannot survive such intolerant attitudes from its activists, who claim to honor a moral visionary like King but don’t really believe in what he stood for, except when it suits their narrow agendas. Nor can those values and principles survive such hypocrisy from its “liberals,” and such craven character in its political leaders. What was supposed to be a celebration of King’s principles in Washington instead stood for the principle that a black pastor isn’t welcome at a civil rights ceremony, unless his political and social views are ruled “acceptable” by those in power.
It is a sick travesty when civil rights progress only means that the formerly oppressed have become the oppressors.
Graphic: Gospel Mashup