This much is not in dispute:
Bishop Harry Jackson, pastor of Hope Christian Church in
Beltsville and a well-known activist against same -sex marriage, was invited to debate Rep. Emmanuel Cleaver, the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, on the topic of same sex marriage at Howard University’s Andrew Rankin Memorial Chapel Wednesday night. But Jackson backed out on Tuesday.
That’s where the agreement ends.
Jackson says he was not invited to participate by event organizers --SiriusXM Satellite Radio host Joe Madison, and his wife and executive producer Sharon - until two days before the event. A scheduling conflict prompted him to cancel, Jackson said, but he added that a sense that the deck was stacked against his point of view was “a secondary reason” for not taking part .
“I only thought that I was talking to [Cleaver], but I understand other people were going to be involved,” Jackson said. “I also was concerned that it was being held at Howard” because he perceives the university to be a liberal insititution. He said he preferred a more neutral site for the event and wanted to be involved in deciding who else would would be invited.
He certainly didn’t back out because he was afraid to express his views against same sex marriage, he said.
“I never back away from a fight,” said Jackson, who has campaigned against same sex marriage in the Maryland, where a law allowing the practice will be put to a voter referendum in November. Jackson also fought against the same-sex marriage law in the District and recently hosted a national forum on the issue in Charlotte.
For their part, Joe and Sharon Madison said they had spoken to Jackson and received his commitment to participate in the debate in May.
“Sharon talked to Bishop Jackson’s office on four different occasions up until Monday,” said veteran journalist Joe Madison. “It was only then, as the last minute, that Jackson office called and pulled out without any explanation.”
The event was also structured to be fair, he said.
“Bishop Jackson is not being truthful,” said Joe Madison. “We assured him that both sides would be represented equal.”
Cleaver was chosen because he is also an ordained pastor in the United Methodist Church,” he said. “It was pastor to pastor.”
People were invited to attend represented both sides of the debate, he said, and neutral moderators were chosen: Washington Post religion reporter Michelle Boorstein, Politico staff writer Julie Mason and Howard University political science professor Wilmer Leon.
Although the debate was to take place at Rankin Chapel on Howard’s campus, the chapel’s assistant dean Rev. Kanika McGee said the university had no part in the planning or hosting of the event.
“It was a missed opportunity to have an intelligent debate about a serious issue and people in Maryland will be voting on this issue November,” said Sharon Madison.
But the debate may still take place. Jackson said he’s still open to it, under the right conditions. And the Madisons said they have not dismissed the possibility.
So stay tuned.
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