Last week, articles published in Mother Jones and The USA Today shined a light on CAAP (the Coalition of African-
American Pastors), the group of black ministers attempting to persuade members of the black community to withhold their votes from President Obama.
CAAP and its president, Rev. Bill Owens, claims that this effort is to protest Obama’s support of marriage equality. There are some (this author included) who believe that CAAP is a front group for conservatives looking to sabotage President’s Obama’s African-American support.
And according to the articles in Mother Jones and USA Today, there may be some accuracy to this charge.
In a Friday edition of the USA Today, it was discovered that CAAP has deep ties to conservative and religious right groups, including the following choice tidbits:
Frank Cannon, head of the American Principles Project, a group opposed to same-sex marriage, confirms his group’s political action fund is paying public relations firm Shirley & Banister to assist CAAP’s communications strategy.
CAAP received loans totaling $26,000 in 2004 from the conservative Family Research Council, American Family Association and Mississippi Tea Party activist Ed Holliday, according to its IRS filings.
Owens, . . . endorsed 2008 GOP presidential contender Mike Huckabee and Ohio GOP gubernatorial candidate Ken Blackwell.
In another article, which was published on the same day in Mother Jones, Owens admitted that CAAP was receiving funding from the National Organization for Marriage (NOM). NOM had gotten into trouble earlier this year when secret documents from the organization detailed its plot to play the black and gay communities against each other on the subject of marriage equality.
In that same article, there was another possible revelation even more shocking. Owens may have been lying about his history as a civil rights leader.
According to the Huffington Post:
Owens . . . has claimed that he participated in protests and sit-ins in Nashville in the late 1950s. “I didn’t march one inch, one foot, one yard, for a man to marry a man, and a woman to marry a woman,” he said during a news conference last week at the National Press Club.
. . . But Adam Serwer of Mother Jones spoke to several prominent civil rights leaders who were involved in organizing the Nashville sit-ins and who said they have no recollection of Owens. A librarian at the Nashville Public Library, which maintains an extensive library on the sit-ins and protests, could find no mention of Owens either, outside of a 2004 interview that Owens himself gave with the library in which he said he was involved.
Here are more details from the Mother Jones article :
Rev. C.T. Vivian, an ally of Martin Luther King Jr. who helped organize the Nashville sit-ins and who is now president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, said he did not recall crossing paths with Owens. Rev. James Lawson, the famed practitioner of non-violence who trained the sit-in activists, did not remember Owens either. The same goes for Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), one of the major student leaders in the Nashville sit-in movement who went on to lead the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.
The only evidence Mother Jones could find of Owens’ involvement in the Nashville civil rights movement was at the Nashville Public Library, which maintains an extensive collection of historical materials on the subject. In 2004, the library conducted a 60-minute interview with Owens, in which he describes his role during that era. Other than attending some activist meetings, the only protest he mentioned participating in was the picketing of the drug store where he once worked, according to Jennifer Quire, the Nashville Public Library’s educational outreach librarian, who handles the civil rights oral history project and who reviewed the tape for Mother Jones. Even this could have been something of a fluke: Owens told Quire he came across the drugstore being picketed and held up a sign to show his solidarity with the protesters. “There definitely was no leadership role, certainly not on the level of James Lawson or Diane Nash or anything like that,” Quire says. (Owens did not respond to repeated queries about his civil rights role in Nashville, including a detailed request concerning his oral history interview with the Nashville library.)
It’s up to Owens to fill in the blanks, but most likely he won’t.
I don’t think it takes a palm reader to guess that Owens will play the victim. He will probably claim that there is a plot underfoot to undermine him because CAAP’s protest is resonating.
Let me kill that lie right now.
CAAP’s protest is not resonating and this is not a plot to undermine Owens.
What’s going on is a bit of truth-telling.