Who Is Harry Jackson?

This morning, anti-marriage equality activists will be rallying in Washington DC to protest the D.C. Council’s decision to recognize gay marriages that have been performed in other states and introduce its own marriage equality bill.

The main organizer behind this effort is Bishop Harry Jackson, who is declaring that DC’s move “will launch the Armageddon of the marriage battle in this country” and is vowing to do all the he can to stop it:

The rally, according to lead organizer Bishop Harry Jackson of Hope Christian Church in Bowie, “will launch the Armageddon of the marriage battle in this country.”

Jackson predicts that about 1,000 church members and 100 pastors will show up to argue that the apparently unanimous support among D.C. Council members for recognizing same-sex marriage is an affront to Washingtonians and especially to blacks.

“There’s a sense that the latte-drinking crowd is doing an end run around the regular people,” Jackson told me. “It’s a race and a class struggle on this. If 51 percent of the people in D.C. are African-American and you have a unanimous vote by the city council on this, somebody’s not listening to the people.”

Jackson will be joined by several other anti-gay leaders, including the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins, which comes as no surprise because, as we explain in our new in-depth report on Jackson, entitled “Point Man for the Wedge Strategy,” over the last several years Jackson has emerged as the face of the Religious Right’s outreach to African American Christians: 

In recent years, Religious Right leaders have made a major push to elevate the visibility and voices of politically conservative African American pastors. The star of that effort has been Bishop Harry Jackson. Jackson, the pastor of a congregation in Maryland, has been ushered into the Religious Right’s inner circle since he announced in 2004 that God had told him to work for the reelection of George W. Bush. Since then, Jackson has become somewhat of an all-purpose activist and pundit for right-wing causes – everything from judicial nominations to immigration and oil drilling — but his top priorities mirror those of the Religious Right: he’s fervently anti-abortion and dead-set against gay equality. And he has enthusiastically adopted the Right’s favorite propaganda tactic: he routinely portrays liberals, especially gay-rights activists, as enemies of faith, family, and religious liberty.

Jackson has big ambitions. He sees himself as a game changer in the culture war, someone who can help conservative Christians “take the land” by bringing about a political alliance between white and black evangelicals. Religious Right leaders see him that way, too, which is why they’ve helped Jackson build his public profile.

Religious Right leaders have long dreamed of forging lasting political alliances with socially conservative African American Christians. More than a decade ago, then-Christian Coalition leader Ralph Reed launched the Samaritan Project, an effort to build working relationships with African American churches around issues like school vouchers. Many clergy looked askance at Religious Right leaders’ record on civil rights and economic issues, and the Samaritan Project fizzled.

More recently, Religious Right leaders have turned to conservative African American clergy to help lead attacks on gay rights, especially on marriage equality but also on hate crimes legislation and laws to protect against anti-gay discrimination on the job. Jackson has been willing and eager to play that role, denouncing those efforts as threats to the church and the black family.

It’s useful to the Religious Right to have African American pastors at the forefront of their anti-gay campaigns. It puts equality activists in the position of challenging black pastors who are accusing them of “hijacking” the civil rights movement. And it gives people opposed to equality for gay Americans assurance that their prejudice is acceptable, not something akin to racism. And it is particularly useful to the Right to elevate someone who so readily denounces traditional civil rights leaders and organizations as well as gay-rights groups.

Jackson’s profile has been boosted significantly by his alliance with Religious Right leaders James Dobson, Tony Perkins, and Lou Sheldon. They’ve invited him into insider leadership circles like the Arlington Group. They’ve made him a regular speaker at Religious Right events, where he builds his public profile and raises money from white evangelicals. At a Values Voter Summit he told white evangelicals something they don’t hear very often – the notion that racism is a continuing reality in America and it’s their responsibility to do something about it. He told the whites in the room that the olive branch of peace has to be put forward by white churches: “If you don’t do it, the blacks aren’t coming.”

The report covers Jackson’s rise to prominence, his anti-gay and anti-choice activism, his efforts to promote domestic oil drilling under the guise of helping the poor, and many other issues, so be sure to check it out.