Sarah Posner over at Religion Dispatches put up a post last Friday with the concerning headline Dems’ New Faith Outreach Director “Pro-Life” and Against Marriage Equality. But it turns out The Rev. Derrick Harkins is on the advisory board of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice’s (RCRC) National Black Church Initiative (BCI). RCRC director Carlton Veazey praised the pick and said: "The Obama Administration is to be commended for naming Reverend Harkins to lead faith outreach for the Democratic Party as it heads into the 2012 election cycle."
On marriage equality, Posner writes: "Harkins told me he opposes same-sex marriage, but hopes for a place of 'common understanding' of a 'vexing question.'"
But from the tone of the piece and the headline you would have though that Barack Obama had just hired Pat Roberton.
Posner painted an unfair picture of Harkins. His position on marriage equality is the same as the president's (which for me doesn't go far enough). Harkins has defended the work of Planned Parenthood and fought against efforts to defund the organization.
If Posner was hoping to stir up trouble it worked. The day after her piece ran I had three voice-mail messages waiting when I got off an airplane wanting to know what the president was doing.
Great pro-choice leaders contacted me first-thing Monday morning about joining a sign-on letter to protest the hiring.
Posner created a controversy where none existed. Harkins by all accounts is a progressive and important leader - particularly in the African-American faith community - but for whatever reason Posner tried to turn him into a caricature of a right-wing evangelical.
The real fight that religious progressives should be waging is against the GOP's recently passed "Protect Life Act" that, as The Washington Post notes, "would prohibit federal funds from going toward any health care plan that covers abortion services, marking the chamber’s passage of its first major abortion-rights measure since May."
I'll sign a letter about that. But at least I know it will never become law as long as Barack Obama is president.