In Alabama Senate race, African-American Christians may hold the key

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — For much of the rest of the country, Alabama’s Senate race hinges on whether voters will elect an accused predator of young women — Republican Roy Moore.

But many African-Americans in this state are less concerned with Moore’s sexual misconduct, which he denies, and more with countering a former judge they think is bent on returning the state to its segregationist past.

Blacks, who make up 27 percent of the population in the state, overwhelmingly favor Democratic candidates. For the first time since many can remember, they and their allies have a real chance of electing a Democrat — Doug Jones — to the U.S. Senate.

Recent accusations that Moore, the former state Supreme Court judge, made unwanted sexual advances on teenaged girls could potentially tilt the race in favor of Jones, who until a few months ago was not thought to have much of a chance in this deeply red state.

But that doesn’t mean African-American pastors are ready to champion Jones from the pulpit in Alabama, a state where many people — black and white — center their lives around the church.

At the 16th Street Baptist Church, a red-robed choir greeted worshippers with a rousing rendition of “O Come Let Us Adore Him” on the first Sunday of Advent (Dec. 3).

The Rev. Arthur Price Jr., the church’s pastor, preached about waiting as the theme of the Advent season.

And during church announcements, worshippers were reminded of the Dec. 12 special election for U.S. Senate pitting Moore against Jones, and urged to vote “for the candidate of their choice.”

The 16th Street Baptist Church has a special relationship with Jones. As a former U.S. attorney, he prosecuted the two surviving Ku Klux Klan members who helped plant the 1963 bomb that killed four girls in the basement of this church.

Jones, a Methodist, regularly drops by the church and has led tours there to help law enforcement understand how he collected evidence in the case.

But Price, like many African-American pastors across Alabama, is reluctant to endorse Jones from the pulpit, preferring to urge members to vote their conscience.

“It’s not in the church’s best interest to give an endorsement,” said Price. “The church isn’t made up of just one party or one group.”

Price, along with most African-Americans here, does not shy from personally stating his preference for Jones, and many Birmingham blacks are reliable Democratic voters.

But in Alabama, only a strong showing among blacks could potentially tip the scales in Jones’ favor.

“The question in this election is, what is the turnout among African-American vote?” said Joseph Smith, chairman of the political science department at the University of Alabama.

African-Americans understand the stakes are high.

“In American history, we’ve come to several crossroads and many times we’ve taken the wrong turn,” said Horace Huntley, a retired University of Alabama professor and member of another iconic church in Birmingham, Sixth Avenue Baptist. “A lot depends on what route we decide to take.”

Race haunts this state. African-Americans here began fighting for basic civil and human rights …read more

Source:: Deseret News – U.S. & World News


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