‘Liberal’ Booker, Harris Attend Church Service with Anti-Gay Pastor
2020 hopefuls may have tarnished ties to LGBT community
2020 presidential candidates Sens. Cory Booker (N.J.) and Kamala Harris (Calif.) are facing backlash after they made appearances with a Las Vegas pastor who has said: "homosexuality is a sin."
Last week, both senators attended services a previous week with Rev. Robert E. Fowler Sr. at Victory Missionary Baptist Church, a popular black church in the state.
Fellow 2020 hopeful Bernie Sanders dodged a bullet after he held a town hall at the church last month, but didn't appear with Fowler or attend a service led by him.
Follow told a Nevada Public Radio that engaging in homosexuality was enough to send someone to Hell, in 2013.
“Whether you commit adultery, whether you commit fornication, whether you’re a child molester, you gossip, you lie, you cheat on your taxes, you don’t pay your tithes, things of that nature — all of that is wrapped together as sin, along with homosexuality,” Fowler said.
“Any sin, if you break the law in one area, you’ve broken it in all areas. If you mess up in one area, that’s enough to send you to hell — so any sin is pretty bad for me," he said.
Fowler has since affirmed his stance on homosexuality.
“Homosexuality, adultery, fornication, those are all sexual sins addressed in scripture,” Fowler said.
Harris delivered a speech at Fowler’s church on Sunday, while Booker was at the church on Saturday evening, the San Jose Mercury News reported.
A spokeswoman for the campaign separately emphasized her advocacy on LGBTQ.
“Senator Harris' support and advocacy for LGBTQ equality has been unwavering throughout her career and will continue when elected President,” a spokeswoman said.
“She will continue to visit houses of worship across the country to address congregants about the pressing issues we face as a nation.”
Booker distanced himself from Fowler’s comments, but his campaign did not reply to a question from The Hill about whether he knew of them before his appearance.
“Cory does not share these views,” Booker’s national press secretary stated.
“Throughout his career, Cory has been a consistent fighter for the rights of LGBTQ people and even refused to officiate weddings as Newark mayor until same-sex couples were granted the same rights as everyone. He'll keep fighting to end discrimination as president.”
LGBTQ groups are mostly giving a pass to Harris and Booker over the appearances, though the Human Rights Campaign said it was disappointed by the visits.
“Pastor Fowler’s statements and his history with the LGBTQ community are deeply troubling. Rhetoric matters, and with LGBTQ people under attack across the country, condemning hateful words and hate-fueled violence matters more than ever,” Lucas Acosta, the Human Rights Campaign's national press secretary for campaigns said.
“While we’re disappointed by their visits to Fowler’s church, Senators Booker, Harris and Sanders have all been strong allies of the LGBTQ community, including earning 100% HRC Congressional Scorecard ratings,” Acosta added.
According to The Hill: Fowler’s church has been a stop in past presidential campaigns given Nevada’s prominence in the Democratic race. In 2016, both of the leading contenders in Nevada, Sanders and Hillary Clinton attended the same service at the church.
African Americans make up ten percent of Nevada’s population, according to the Census.
The Nevada caucuses will be the third contest in next year’s primary, after meetings in Iowa and the New Hampshire primary, and candidates are already positioning themselves for the battle.
LGBTQ advocacy groups that talked to The Hill said the recognized that context, and they made a point to note that Booker and Harris have compiled strong records on LGBTQ rights.
“Senators Harris and Booker have been champions for the LGBTQ community throughout their careers. We would never ask or expect a candidate to ignore an entire faith community simply because they disagree with the pastor,” Samuel Garrett-Pate said.
Harris called for an end to California’s ban on same-sex marriages as the state’s attorney general and directed clerks to marry same-sex couples once the ban was lifted in 2013.
As Newark mayor and New Jersey’s Senator-elect, Booker presided over the state’s first same-sex marriages at Newark City Hall in 2013, and he has grilled Trump administration appointees over their stances on same-sex marriage.
This year’s Democratic primary field includes South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who has a chance to be the most successful openly gay presidential candidate in history.
Buttigieg’s campaign refused to comment on the appearances by Harris and Booker at Fowler’s church.