“Not only did they edit my speech, they edited the African American experience,” he said. The Grammy-winning artist won several Dove Awards, including gospel artist of the year, at the 50th annual awards, held in Nashville on Oct. 15.
Franklin, who has spent the past 20 weeks on Billboard’s Gospel Songwriters Chart, said he will not attend any events affiliated with the Dove Awards, the Gospel Music Association or TBN “until tangible plans are put in place to protect and champion diversity.”
GMA President and Executive Director Jackie Patillo issued a statement Monday, saying the GMA is “deeply apologetic,” and said a full video has been posted at TBN.
“We accept the responsibility of our error,” the statement said. “Although completely unintentional, we understand it caused great harm and deeply wounded many in the African American and Gospel community. As well, it left a general perception that we are not concerned with key social issues that affect people of color. It is not our intent to disregard or silence any of our artists, and we are deeply saddened by this perception and are committed to change this.”
For some, Franklin’s experience likely reflects a larger discomfort many black Christians have had in spaces where white evangelicals have been prominent, including on TBN’s platform. Many cited Michael Brown’s killing by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo., in 2014 as a specific point of division between black Christians and white evangelicals, and President Trump’s election in 2016 as another turning point. Notably, in 2017, popular hip-hop artist Lecrae distanced himself from white evangelicals even though he enjoys enormous support among those fans.
In 2016, while accepting the “best gospel artist” Dove Award, Franklin spoke out on the deaths of Philando Castile and Walter Scott, who were killed by police officers. He also discussed the killings of five Dallas police officers by a shooter who was African American, and prayed for all the victims’ families. But when the show was broadcast by TBN, he said, his statements were edited out.
He said the Dove Awards committee told him at the time that the editing mistake wouldn’t happen again. But in 2019, “history repeated itself,” he said. At the 2019 awards, he brought attention to the killing of Atatiana Jefferson by a white police officer in Fort Worth. He asked the crowd to join him in prayer for Jefferson’s family and the family of the officer.
“When police are killed, we need to say something,” he said. “When black boys are killed, we need to say something. And when we don’t say something, we’re saying something.”
When the show aired, Franklin’s comments were edited out again.
“I am aware that the word boycott often has a negative connotation and finality to it,” he said. “But my goal will forever be reconciliation as well as accountability.”
Franklin said he made the boycott decision along with his pastor Tony Evans, a megachurch leader in Dallas, after he met with the Dove Awards committee and TBN representatives. “In the end, we will not remember the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends,” he said, quoting Martin Luther King Jr. Efforts to reach Franklin on Monday were unsuccessful.
TBN is a prominent outlet for many Christian leaders, including some who are closely connected to Trump, according to Politico magazine. For instance, pastor Paula White hosted a show on TBN, and pastors Jentezen Franklin’s and Robert Jeffress’s sermons have aired as their own programs. In its latest tweet, TBN promoted the ministry of Franklin Graham, one of Trump’s close allies. The network has also featured popular black pastors such as Creflo Dollar, Tony Evans and T.D. Jakes.
This piece has been updated.