President Obama and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) are receiving some criticism over the new head of their religious outreach. In October, the DNC announced Derrick Harkins, senior pastor of Nineteenth Street Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., would lead the 2012 effort. Harkins actively promotes progressive policies, and he also serves on the boards of the National Association of Evangelicals, World Relief, and Faith in Public Life.
His link to evangelicals may be a strength, but it is also causing controversy among some in the Democratic Party's liberal base because of his views on marriage and abortion.
Blowback began when Religion Dispatches senior editor Sarah Posner reported her interview with Harkins from several months ago. Harkins worked closely with the Circle of Protection and Sojourners to lobby for the continuation of anti-poverty programs. Following a press conference held in opposition to the Values Voters Summit, Posner interviewed Harkins about hot button social issues. Posner began with a discussion of same-sex marriage, in which Harkins spoke about the complexities involving the legal status of gay couples. When asked if he supported same-sex marriage, Harkins said, "No, no, no. But again, I'm not a bomb-thrower in terms of saying things that will get a rise out of a crowd because I just don't think that's, again, intellectually honest."
Harkins's position became less clear after a petition advocating same-sex marriage surfaced. AmericaBlog, which covers LGBT politics, reported that Harkins was one of many D.C. pastors to sign a statement supporting same-sex marriage in the District. Harkins's name is listed, but he informed Christianity Today that the petition is erroneous. Harkins did not sign ...1