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Sex-Tape Scandal, Mandela Funeral Spotlight Homophobia in African-American Churches

A 47-second video apparently recorded on a cellphone camera seems to show popular African-American gospel singer Kevin Terry, lead singer of Kevin Terry and Predestined, performing oral sex on an unidentified male partner.

As the video went viral online in early November 2013, predictable pockets of the blogosphere–from atheist YouTube channels to gay-activist blogs–responded with predictable doses of shock, anger, ridicule, or glee, but corporate media remained silent, passing up the opportunity to spotlight homophobia within African-American churches.

That largely taboo subject is the focus of a new book by journalist Anthony Stanford, Homophobia in the Black Church: How Faith, Politics, and Fear Divide the Black Community, which documents the alliance between African-American church leaders and the Republican establishment to oppose marriage equality in the United States. One African-American evangelist told The New York Times in 2004, “If the KKK opposes gay marriage, I would ride with them.”

Amid the many eulogies to Nelson Mandela in U.S. pulpits in December 2013, lesbian activist Irene Monroe, blogging at The Huffington Post, pointed out a basic hypocrisy: “Here in the U.S., Mandela’s LGBTQ advocacy was, for the most part, ignored by most black churches and their cadre of homophobic African-American ministers who professed to have marched with MLK during the black civil rights era.”

“There is still a huge, vocal and visible anti-LGBTQ contingent of black Christian ministers and churches,” Monroe said. This interest group is guilty of “scapegoating the LGBTQ community” for “the epidemic of fatherlessness in black families,” Monroe said, a problem more accurately laid at the door of “the systematic disenfranchisement of both African-American men and women, high unemployment, high incarceration, and poor education.”

The public hypocrisy of preaching civil rights for some minorities, but not others, sometimes conceals more personal hypocrisy, too. “Some of the harshest critics of LGBTs are people who are later found to be struggling with their own sexuality,” said journalist Deena Bess Sherman. “When people are ostracized and persecuted for being who God made them, they try to please society by forcing themselves into heterosexual roles that are unnatural for them.”

In the wake of Mandela’s death, one African-American church leader who issued a statement of tribute was Georgia televangelist Eddie Long, who said, “Nelson Mandela inspired us, challenged us, and showed us how to fight for equality and freedom, for all mankind, without violence. … We will forever honor his tremendous spirit.” In 2011, Long settled out of court with four young men who accused him of sexual misconduct.

Sources:

Irene Monroe, “Mandela’s LGBTQ Advocacy Has Fallen on Deaf Ears in Africa and African Diasporic Communities,” Huffington Post, December 18, 2013, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/irene-monroe/mandela-lgbtq-advocacy_b_4441712.html.

Graham Gremore, “Gospel Singer Kevin Terry’s Gay Sex Tape Hits the Internet – Very Very NSFW,” Queerty, November 1, 2013, http://www.queerty.com/gospel-singer-kevin-terrys-gay-sex-tape-hits-the-internet-very-very-nsfw-20131101/.

Deena Bess Sherman, “FDL Book Salon Welcomes Anthony Stanford.” Firedoglake Book Salon, June 2, 2013, http://fdlbooksalon.com/2013/06/02/fdl-book-salon-welcomes-anthony-stanford-homophobia-in-the-black-church-how-faith-politics-and-fear-divide-the-black-community/.

Secondary Sources:

Anthony Stanford, Homophobia in the Black Church: How Faith, Politics, and Fear Divide the Black Community. Praeger, 2013.

Eddie L. Long, “Bishop Eddie L. Long Gives Condolences on the Passing of Nelson Mandela,” Black Christian News.com, December 6, 2013,  http://www.blackchristiannews.com/news/2013/12/bishop-eddie-l-long-gives-condolences-on-the-passing-of-nelson-mandela.html.

“Kevin Terry Caught On Tape With Sex Partner,” Yah’s People, November 5, 2013, http://www.yahspeople.com/3/post/2013/11/kevin-terry-caught-on-tape-with-sex-partner.html.

Meghan Keneally, “Sex Abuse Scandal Pastor Eddie Long Leaves Megachurch after Wife Files for Divorce,” Mail Online, December 4, 2011, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2069969/Sex-abuse-scandal-pastor-Eddie-Long-leaves-megachurch-wife-files-divorce.html.

Student Researcher: Andrea Bell (Frostburg State University)

Faculty Evaluator: Andy Duncan (Frostburg State University)

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