May 13, 2012; Source: Washington Post

Many ministers around the country responded to President Obama’s endorsement of same-gender marriage last Sunday, a day ordinarily reserved to celebrate mothers—or, in some faith communities, at least heterosexual, married mothers. In the president’s own backyard, pastors preached on both the good and evil in Obama’s full evolution on same-sex marriage rights.

The Rev. John K. Jenkins, Jr., pastor of the First Baptist Church of Glenarden in Maryland, told his congregation that he was “deeply, deeply troubled” and labeled the president’s call for the equal treatment of lesbian and gay couples as a “strike at the core foundation” of society. “I hate to bring it up on Mother’s Day,” Jenkins said, “but two men can’t be a mother…It’s not healthy for children, and it is not God’s design.”

In contrast, the Rev. Delman Coates, pastor of Mount Ennon Baptist Church, also in Maryland, commended Obama’s “bold and courageous stance in support of civil marriage protection for gays and lesbians.” Coates, one of a group of African American ministers asked by the White House to promote its position, said in an e-mail to the Washington Post that the president’s stance “underscores the fundamental difference between the State and the role of the Church.”

The Rev. Clement Aapengnu, a priest at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in Virginia’s Arlington County, suggested during an interview that marriage is a “human phenomenon” rather than a religious one. “Who has the authority to define what marriage is?” he asked. “We in the church must respect its traditions. But marriage is a gift and a covenant of love that should be respected.” Aapengnu added that Obama must act as “president of all Americans, not just of Catholics. The beauty of America is that it is a melting pot.” He stressed that, “We live with multiplicity. Once we lose that perspective, we’re in trouble.”

A recent Gallup poll shows that a majority (54 percent) of Americans believe that same-gender relationships are moral. Jenkins is naturally free to speak his mind and espouse his faith tradition’s teachings. But as far as we’re concerned, Coates and Aapengnu are right in pointing out that Church and State are and should be separate, and that the president is the leader of all Americans, gay and straight, liberal and conservative, nonbeliever and believer. – Erwin de Leon