December 12, 2010; Source: The Examiner | When Rev. James T. Meeks gives his sermons at House of Hope, the Salem Baptist Church’s 10,000-seat house of worship located on Chicago’s South Side, the people attending all know that Meeks isn’t just leading his church flock, he’s also trying to become Chicago’s next mayor. Should Meeks be prohibited from his Sunday sermons, many of which are all but political campaign speeches, because of the prohibition dating back to 1954 preventing church leaders from endorsing political candidates from their pulpits—and the requirement that candidates can’t be invited to speak in churches unless their opponents also get invited?
The situation for Meeks is different. He isn’t in violation of a church endorsing a political candidate, because he is the candidate and his job has always been as a clergyman. He can’t accept church money, but he says he isn’t doing that. But watch out. Rev. Meeks clearly opposes the church money restriction. In a December 5 sermon on the punishment on high for apolitical Christians, Meeks complained, “I can take all the money I want from the [National Rifle Association], from the pharmaceutical companies, from the riverboat people, from the tobacco industry and from the liquor industry. I can take all the money. . . . But I can’t take one dime from a church.”
On the punishment of the apolitical, Meeks said, “Don’t tell me I’m sinful and I’m wrong and I’m out of the will of God for being in politics. You’re sinful and you’re wrong and you’re stupid for being out of politics. You are stupid. Because they are still going to make a decision about your life.”
Sign up for our free newsletter
Subscribe to the NPQ newsletter to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.
This isn’t the first time the question of separating the political and the religious has been raised for Meek, as he is a long-time Democratic member of the Illinois state Senate. His candidacy for mayor merits watching, especially since he is an ostensibly progressive Democrat and national vice president of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition long associated with Jesse Jackson.
Despite those liberal credentials, Meeks was the only member of the state legislature to vote against a bill allowing civil unions for same-sex couples just this month. He calls homosexuality “an evil sickness” and apparently he comports with an organization called Americans for Truth, which is on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s list of hate groups. He contrasts the inability of churches to financially back his candidacy with the flexibility accorded his opponents: “If homosexuals can endorse a candidate,” he said, “why can’t a church?”—Rick Cohen