james_clyburn_5.jpgFORT LAUDERDALE — The third ranking Democrat in the U.S. House of Representative has sharply criticized black pastors who have been telling their congregations to stay home on Election Day because of President Barack Obama’s support of gay marriage.

“For any minister to say to his or her congregation that people should walk away for this election, or any election, over any one issue, I think he’d better think about what he is saying,” U.S. Rep. James “Jim” Clyburn, D-S.C., the assistant Democratic leader in Congress, said as he made a swing through South Florida Sunday to push voter-registration.

“I have a problem with ministers who stand before the congregations asking for tithing and then say to people who try to get educated, people who are trying to get work and maintain security with Medicare,  to vote for the guy who said he’s going to get rid of it or stay home and don’t participate. That’s telling people to not be good citizens,” said Clyburn, who is part of a voter-registration drive by the Congressional Black Caucus.

Such action, he said, also violates the constitutional separation of church and state.

“They need to tell people to be guided by their conscience. I would say to those ministers I don’t know anyone who can guarantee that his child will not be a homosexual,” he said in an interview. “In fact, most of the people who carry on the most about homosexuals — watch them. A lot of them have found themselves eating their words.”

Clyburn was making a final push through Florida a week before the Oct. 9 deadline to register for the presidential election.

“African Americans need to decide whether they want to live in the future [with decisions made] by Mitt Romney or (President) Barack Obama,” Clyburn said.
He rejected as “absolutely not true” reports that there was no excitement in the African-American community towards the election.

“Granted, there was a lot of whining and gnashing of teeth a few months back, but when Romney put [Congressman Paul] Ryan on that ticket, that was a wake-up call,” he said.

Ryan, a Republican from Wisconsin, introduced into the Republican-controlled House tough budget proposals that Democrats see as favoring the rich at the expense of the middle class and the poor.

Congressman Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., reinforced Clyburn’s comment when he  spoke at the Organizing For America’s Voter Registration Final Push, Sunday at the Midtown Commerce Center, 1033 N.W. Sixth St., Fort Lauderdale.

Organizing for America-Florida is the grassroots effort by the Florida Democratic Party to re-elect Obama and Democrats up and down the ticket.

Passing Ryan’s budget would be a disaster, Hastings said. “We cannot even think about letting Barack Obama lose. We need to get out and vote. You have to ask yourself what this is really about. This is the most important election of our lifetime.”

The presidential election will not only determine America’s direction for the next four years but also the future of the country in terms of Supreme Court justices, universal health care, employment and educational opportunities, Sonya Burrows of Fort Lauderdale said at the meeting.

“There are many important issues at hand,” Burrows said. “This is a pivotal election even on the local level and is not the time to stay home.”

Robert Pastor of Hallandale said that he is proud to see the Congressional Black Caucus involved in the registration process.

“It shows that we are serious about the election and getting the word out to bring people to the polls. I hope that after all this that black voter turnout will be in record numbers,” Pastor said.

Cynthia Roby may be reached at CynthiaRoby@bellsouth.net