Civil Rights for Some

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An Open Letter to the Reverend William Owens


Having just read your remarks at the National Press Club this morning, I felt compelled to write you about your truly appalling comments.

Let’s begin with:  “The President is in the White House because of the civil rights movement …”

No, sir.  This President is in the White House because a majority of the citizens of this country saw him as the best man for the job, and cast their votes accordingly.  The civil rights movement made the presidency of a black American possible, although it seemed a distant possibility at the time.  But Barack Obama earned his presidency in the same way white American presidents have earned it in the past – by presenting his vision of a better nation, and garnering the support of those who believed in that vision and his ability to make it a reality.

“I was a leader in that movement, and I didn’t march one inch, one foot, one yard for a man to marry a man or a woman to marry a woman.” 

That begs the question, sir:  Exactly who did you march for?  Was it for all black Americans, or only those you personally approved of?  Was it for every man and every woman who was being denied their rights, or was it only for those whose rights you deemed acceptable?  Was it for your fellow citizens who deserved equality in the eyes of the law, or was it only for those who you determined were deserving in the eyes of the Lord you claim to represent?

“So the President has forgotten the price that was paid.  People died or they suffered or they gave their blood to have equal rights in the United States.”

Far from forgetting the price that was paid, this President no doubt remembers that price well – and apparently better than you do.  He remembers the suffering of those oppressed due to their race and, as a result, understands the suffering of those who are denied their rights due to who they choose to love, to cherish, to spend their lives with.

It is saddening to know that you, sir, who fought for the rights of others to be recognized, are somehow too arrogant to recognize your own bigotry – the same kind of bigotry that allowed people to deny employment, educational opportunities, housing, and an equal share of the American dream to fellow citizens on the basis that they weren’t the right color.  The fact that you would now seek to deny the rights of others based on their not being of the right sexuality goes a long way in negating whatever praise you choose to heap upon yourself for having spoken up for some, but not all.

“And for the homosexual community and for the President to bow to the money, as Judas did with Jesus Christ, is a disgrace and we are ashamed.”

Exactly what money are you referring to, sir?  Is there money to be made by being a gay man or lesbian woman in today’s society, or in supporting their rights in the current political arena?  Is there a secret windfall of cash to be had by those who desire equal rights for all citizens, regardless of color, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation?  More to the point, was it monied interests that moved the civil rights movement forward – or simply citizens of all colors, all religious beliefs, all sexual orientations who stood up for what was right and refused to back down despite the blood to be shed, the sacrifices to be made?

As for your comparison of President Obama to Judas, I can only shake my head in bewilderment – and utter embarrassment at your continuing to hold yourself out as some kind of champion of civil rights.  Obama is the President of ALL Americans, sir, and that includes the ones you don’t like.  It is his job to see that their rights are protected, and their treatment as citizens is equal under the law.  That was once, to hear you tell it, a concept you found worth fighting for.

How sad to now realize that your self-proclaimed fighting spirit is only available to those who you deem to be acceptable – not in God’s eyes, but in your own – a fair-weather activist whose personal determination of who warrants equitable treatment is predicated on the same prejudices that led to black Americans once being relegated to second-class status because they were “not the same as the rest of us.”

“We will not take it back. We will not back down. We are going to take action across this country to change the course that this President has us in.”

Well, you just go ahead and do that, Reverend Owens.  You tell whoever is stupid enough to listen to you that President Obama is on the wrong course when he stands up for those whose rights have been marginalized, or outright denied.  You stand there – O, Great Champion of Civil Rights! – and tell the nation that those civil rights only apply to those who adhere to YOUR rules, YOUR religious dogma, YOUR concept of who is equal under the law.  No doubt all two dozen of them will stand with you.

Just for the sake of completeness, Reverend, I would add that true Christians strive to adhere to the Ten Commandments, along with the teachings of Jesus Christ.  Can you point me to the Commandment that forbids homosexuality, or the passages from the New Testament that quotes Jesus’ condemnation thereof?

Of course, we both know that no such Commandment exists, nor did Jesus say any such thing.  But people like yourself see fit to speak for God and Jesus alike, which means your ignorance is only surpassed by your arrogance in presuming to speak for either.

With all due respect (which is now irrevocably non-existent),

Nance Greggs