Abyssinian Baptist & the Senator

To show her confidence in the First Amendment matter of the separation of church and state, Senator Hillary Clinton did a campaign stop in the Abyssinian Baptist Church of Harlem, N.Y., over last weekend. The fact that the event was blatantly political was pointed up when the Rev. Calvin Butts, pastor of the church said, “Victory belongs to her.” He most certainly was not speaking of a victory over any heavenly or hellish creature, though many might describe some or all of her fellow president wannabes in those terms, depending upon their judgment of the inhabitants of those places, whether ethereal or nether.

If such an event were held by Romney or Giuliani in the Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City or any Catholic cathedral anywhere, respectively, the long knives of the mainstream media would be verbally slicing up their vital organs and claiming a disregard for the Constitutional “suggestion” about mixing religion and politics. Indeed, they would be clamoring for those churches to be deprived of their tax-exempt status. But democrat candidates routinely campaign in black churches to keep those folk in line, meaning the automatic 90-92% of their vote.

The event was arranged by hubby Slick and Congressman Rangel, for whom the occasion was more a homecoming than for Hillary, as it was described, who lives nowhere near Harlem and would not dare to go there after darkness descends. Rangel, by contrast, got his start there (Harlem) by defeating Congressman Adam Clayton Powell Jr., pastor of Abyssinian Baptist at the time, in 1970 in the primary and later winning the general election, and has warmed that seat ever since. His latest claims for attention involve his pushing for the military draft and advancing a tax program guaranteed to raise taxes exponentially.

It was fitting for Rangel and Hillary to be on the stump together, since her health plan in 1993 and her philosophy that “it takes a village to raise a child,” ergo, cradle-to-grave existence, and his drive to soak everybody in the interest of redistributing the wealth mesh exactly as the dream for a socialist state. Hubby Bill knows better, simply because he’s smart, but he’s going along for the ride because he’s also inordinately opportunistic.

There’s a supreme irony in all this. Easily the most flamboyant congressman of the 40s-60s, Powell-the- preacher nevertheless was an effective and passionate worker for civil rights and constantly stirred-up both the New York City government and the House of Representatives, being as important, actually, as Martin Luther King Jr., if not more so. This being the case and despite being a staunch democrat, he came out for Eisenhower in the 1956 presidential election because the democrats were not matching the former general in agitating for civil rights. After all, it was Eisenhower who sent the troops to Little Rock in 1955 to do battle with the entrenched democrats there.

New York City Democrat Party leaders were outraged at this act of disloyalty and waged a hard-fought campaign to defeat Powell in the 1958 primary election. Powell's loyal Harlem constituents rebuffed this effort. Powell had expensive habits and also performed with a considerable degree of absenteeism, so later on he fell upon hard times. He was chairman of the powerful House Labor and Education Committee in the 60s, but was deprived of that chairmanship because of his shenanigans. He retired as minister at the Abyssinian Baptist Church in 1971 and died in Miami, Florida, on April 4, 1972.

Abyssinian (or Ethiopian) Baptist Church is just the latest of black churches used by democrats in every election. Clinton was patronizing those folk, but they didn’t care. They’re democrats to the core, and it wouldn’t matter if J. Fred Muggs were the democrat candidate. They would vote for him over any republican.

As for the Rev. Calvin Butts, perhaps he should be invited to speak at the New Baptist Covenant clambake to be presided over by former Baptist presidents Carter and Clinton in Atlanta next January. He has already established his religious credentials by being pastor of this important church. Now, he’s established his political credentials by joining the Clinton campaign to his church, and that’s what the New Baptist Covenant could be all about, scheduled as it is just in time for the major primaries. Without question, a large number of Baptists will be there for the right reasons – those expounded in the literature – but in view of the leadership and the timing, not to mention some of the speakers, one presumes the political aspect is the prime consideration of the leaders, wily politicians that they are.