Last week, Barack Obama made the laughable assertion that ” nobody has spoken out more fiercely on the issue of anti- Semitism than I have.” He gave that as an answer to a Levittown audience when questioned about his church’s ties to Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, a notorious anti-Semite honored by Trinity United Church and Reverend Jeremiah Wright. No one has produced any record of Obama criticism of that award before being challenged on it during his presidential run, making his claim of Fierce Denouncer somewhat suspect.
Fortunately, Barack Obama has another chance, and it comes from someone within his own circle. James Meeks, former state senator, pastor of another South Side church, and both a political ally and “spiritual adviser” of Obama, blamed “Hollywood Jews” for bringing the world Brokeback Mountain. And Meeks also has a lot of antipathy towards a key Democratic voting group — gays and lesbians:
A spring 2007 newsletter from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) named Meeks one of the “10 leading black religious voices in the anti-gay movement”. The newsletter cites him as both “a key member of Chicago’s ‘Gatekeepers’ network, an interracial group of evangelical ministers who strive to erase the division between church and state” and “a stalwart anti-gay activist… [who]… has used his House of Hope mega-church to launch petition drives for the Illinois Family Institute (IFI), a major state-level ‘family values’ pressure group that lauded him last year for leading African Americans in ‘clearly understanding the threat of gay marriage.’”
The SPLC newsletter also noted that, “Meeks and the IFI are partnered with Focus on the Family, the Family Research Council and the Alliance Defense Fund, major anti-gay organizations of the Christian Right. They also are tightly allied with Americans for Truth, an Illinois group that said in a press release last year that ‘fighting AIDS without talking against homosexuality is like fighting lung cancer without talking against smoking.’”
On a more personal level, Meeks has reportedly blamed “Hollywood Jews for bringing us Brokeback Mountain” and actively campaigned to defeat SB3186, an Illinois LGBT non-discrimination bill, while serving in the Illinois state legislature alongside Obama. According to a 2006 Chicago Sun Times article, his church sponsored a “Halloween fright night” which “consigned to the flames of hell two mincing young men wearing body glitter who were supposed to be homosexuals.”
That sounds pretty similar to Reverend Eric Lee, who blamed “Hollywood Jews” for negative stereotypes in popular culture at an event commemorating Martin Luther King earlier this month. Both Lee and Meeks believe in conspiracies of Jews to undermine culture. That, in turn, sounds similar to Jeremiah Wright’s conspiracy theories about government plots to commit genocide by creating the HIV virus. All of it suggests a lack of rational thought, creating a vacuum filled by paranoia.
The anti-Semitism in this case gets married to a strong hostility towards gays and lesbians. That’s a bit unusual in Democratic politics, but not unknown. While Obama reaches out to the GLBT community, he has already refused to support gay marriage, which is their main policy goal, because he doesn’t want to use his “political capital” on such a divisive issue. His association with Meeks might suggest that Obama has other reasons that for a national political campaign, he’d prefer to keep quiet.
The anti-gay actions of Meeks won’t make very good fodder for Republicans, who engage in that kind of nonsense far too often themselves. The Halloween Fright Night events are de rigeur among a subset of ultraconservative evangelical churches, scaring teens with images of gays, drug users, atheists, and others going to perdition’s flames. The GOP won’t have much credibility in criticizing Meeks for this, although the Hillary Clinton campaign might make more of this when it comes time to make their final push with superdelegates at the convention.
But on anti-Semitism, Obama himself left all of his opponents that opening. Of course, Obama could say that, as with Jeremiah Wright, he doesn’t agree with everything that his spiritual adviser believes. However, as the most fierce opponent of anti-Semitism, shouldn’t Obama publicly speak out against this claim of Jewish conspiracies to foist homosexual content onto moviegoers — especially when it comes from one of his own political allies and spiritual mentors? He certainly didn’t mind tying himself to Meeks when he needed votes in the South Side.
Addendum: A local television station showed footage of Meeks in action at the pulpit, calling Chicago politicians in Mayor Richard Daley’s administration “house n*****s”. Listen to Meeks’ ridiculous assertion, when challenged by the reporter, that the word isn’t an insult. Maybe Obama needs to explain this, too.