Bishop Harry R. Jackson, Jr. is an African American Christian preacher and Pentecostal bishop who is the senior pastor at Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Maryland. Bishop Jackson is also a right-wing conservative, founder and chairman of the High Impact Leadership Coalition composed of ministers who oppose same-sex and abortion. What is astonishing to me, however, is that Bishop Jackson claims to be a Democrat but appears to be against many of the policies advocated by Democrats including health care reform labeling it reverse classism. For example, at a recent speech at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, Jackson stated: “If I’m going to have to lessen the care of some folks and people who are worthy of service, worthy of care don’t get served, we have a real problem. In other words, my life is not worth less because I’m worth more financially…There’s a reverse classism in this whole issue.” Of course, Bishop Jackson did not mention the estimated 47 million Americans without health insurance. “We hope that everything that has to do with this health care program grinds to a slow halt,” he declared.”
In order to gain traction for his right-wing conservative views, Bishop Jackson has continued to exploit his status as a registered Democrat just to create the appearance of nonpartisanship and independence. He was a strong supporter of John McCain during the 2008 elections urging him to take a firm stand against marriage equality in order to win right-wing votes by demonstrating fealty to “our cause.” It’s not surprising that Jackson supported McCain since he has voted Republican since the Bush presidency.
Right-Wing Watch recently reported that Bishop Jackson said: “I voted for President Bush, but here in Maryland—a primarily Democratic state—in order to vote in the primaries that affect the election; you need to be a Democrat. That’s where I started. Over time, however, I’ve found that I have very little in common with the Democratic Party in terms of national moral values issues. Still, being able to say I’m a registered Democrat disarms many of the people who want to write me off as an “Oreo” or an “Uncle Tom.” It appears to me that Bishop Jackson is a “pretend Democrat” who uses his political platform to further his right-wing radical agenda and the members of his congregation should take notice.
Bishop Jackson’s views are closely aligned with those of right-wing Evangelical Tony Perkins, President of the Family Research Council, even co-authoring publications with him. However, in 2010, under Perkins’ leadership, the Family Research Council was classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Perkins dismissed the hate group designation as the result of a political attack by a “liberal organization” and “the left’s smear campaign of conservatives“. However, in 1996, while managing the U.S. Senate campaign of Woody Jenkins against Mary Landrieu in Louisiana, Perkins paid $82,500 to use the mailing list of former Klan chief David Duke. The campaign was also fined $3,000, reduced from $82,500, after Perkins and Jenkins filed false disclosure forms in a bid to hide their link to Duke.
On May 17, 2001, Perkins gave a speech to the Louisiana chapter of the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC), a white supremacist group that has described black people as a “retrograde species of humanity.” Perkins claimed not to know the group’s ideology at the time, but it had been widely publicized in Louisiana and the nation. Moreover, in 1999, two years before Perkins’ speech to the CCC, then Republican House Speaker Trent Lott had been embroiled in a national scandal over his ties to this group. GOP former chairman Jim Nicholson then urged Republicans to avoid the CCC because of its “racist views.” The Duke incident surfaced again in the local press in 2002, when Perkins ran for the Republican nomination for the Senate, dooming his campaign to a fourth-place finish in the primaries.
Bishop Jackson has said that same-sex marriage is “an assault” from “the enemy.” He said it’s a “seed” that “corrupts, perverts, and pollutes.” It seems to me that Bishop Jackson is very interested in legislating marital equality and denying Gay Americans the same rights as other Americans, but is apparently mute on marital infidelity since he was a strong defender of former Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain during Cain’s sexual harassment scandals.
While every American has the right to express their opinions about issues that are passionate to them, it is difficult for me to understand why a Christian Bishop who presides over a 3,000 member congregation many of whom are probably African American, can pretend to espouse democratic values on the one hand yet aligns himself with contrary policies and views more consistent with the right-wing conservative radical agenda. I believe Bishop Jackson owes his congregation an explanation of his views and policies including his stance as a democrat, but that’s just my take.