Sen. Barack Obama is to embark on a gospel music tour of South Carolina. He won’t be singing and so he is bringing in some help.
This is where things get interesting. One of the musicians on the tour, Grammy award winning gospel singer and minister Donnie McClurkin, is generating some controversy.
For years, McClurkin has talked from the pulpit about how he was raped by a male family member as a child. It was that act, he has said, that sent him into living as a gay man for the better part of 20 years. He now says he is straight and that his ministry is open to those who say they no longer want to live as a gay person. What he doesn’t do, he says, is crusade against homosexuality.
That, however, isn’t true say several gay rights groups who are calling on Obama to drop McClurkin from the tour.
What makes this a massive issue for Obama – one of the biggest of his campaign thus far – is that McClurkin isn’t some obscure gospel singer. He is something of a household name in both black and white evangelical circles.
In 2004, before he was to appear at the Republican National Convention, the Human Rights Campaign called on the RNC to drop him only to find that call met with stiff resistance from the influential religious right group Concerned Women for America who held up McClurkin as an example of a good and moral man.
For Obama to drop McClurkin now would be to give the religious right a devastating weapon with which to attack him in the future – “Obama dropped Donnie McClurkin just because he said God had redeemed him from a homosexual past.”
I can’t emphasize how enormous an issue this could come back to be for the Obama campaign should he be the party’s nominee.