Gray made the call to cut Donnie McClurkin from concert at Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial

August 12, 2013

Mayor Vincent C. Gray confirmed Monday that it was his decision to cut a gospel singer who has made controversial statements about gays from a city-sponsored concert Saturday at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial.

Donnie McClurkin, who has been vocal among “ex-gay” activists who believe homosexuality is a sin that can be overcome with divine appeals, was removed as a headline performer at the “Reflections on Peace: Gandhi to King” concert held at the memorial after local gay activists lodged objections. “This was an issue involving a potential controversy at an event that was going to focus on harmony and peace, and we just didn’t think that was appropriate for this event,” Gray (D) said Monday.

A mayoral spokeswoman had said that the city’s Arts and Humanities Commission and the singer’s manager had “decided that it would be best for him to withdraw.” But McClurkin said in a video posting Saturday that he had been “asked not to attend” by Gray’s chief of staff, Christopher K. Murphy.

In an interview Monday, McClurkin called the mayor’s move a “disservice to the D.C. faith-based community” and said the suggestion that the withdrawal was mutual constituted an “insult” — one, he said, that “pales in comparison to the insult and the humiliation of being uninvited to such a significant affair.”

Saturday’s concert kicked off a series of District-sponsored events to commemorate the 50th anniversary on Aug. 28 of the March on Washington, at which King delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

A Gray administration official who was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter said a mutual agreement about the withdrawal had been reached after the commission’s director had spoken to McClurkin’s manager Friday. Only later did McClurkin speak with Murphy.

Many African American church leaders have rallied behind McClurkin. A local conservative ministers group, the Baptist Convention of the District of Columbia and Vicinity, issued a statement Sunday accusing Gray of “insidious bullying tactics.”

“This is an outright infringement of Pastor McClurkin’s civil rights,” said the Rev. Patrick J. Walker, the group’s president. “How ironic is that?”

Gray spokesman Rob Marus said McClurkin would still be paid the $10,000 he is owed under his performance contract. McClurkin said he had not heard from Gray’s office and had not been “paid anything for the performance or the inconvenience.”

Mike DeBonis covers local politics and government for The Washington Post. He also writes a blog and a political analysis column that runs on Fridays.
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