Watch Donnie McClurkin address the controversy surrounding him at Sunday night's concert.
COLUMBIA, South Carolina (CNN) - The controversial Gospel singer at the center of a gay and lesbian backlash against Sen. Barack Obama’s presidential campaign struck back at his critics Sunday night, saying that he has been "vilified" and declaring that "God delivered me from homosexuality."
Rev. Donnie McClurkin, who headlined the final installment of the Obama campaign's "Embrace the Change" Gospel concert series, did not comment on the controversy until the just before the concert's finish, when he told the crowd of about 2,500 African-Americans: "I'm going to say something that's going to get me in trouble."
"They accuse me of being anti-gay and a bigot," McClurkin said. "We don't believe in discrimination. We don't believe in hatred, and if you do you are in the wrong place at the wrong time. That's the whole premise of God. That's the whole premise of Christ is love, love, love. But there is a side of Christ that deals in judgment, and all sin is against God."
McClurkin has said that homosexuality is a choice and that he overcame homosexual desires through prayer, comments that drew fire from gay and lesbian activists and caught the Obama campaign, which has been using faith to reach out to African-American voters, off guard.
The Grammy-winning singer said Sunday his words had been "twisted."
"Don't call me a bigot or anti-gay, when I have been touched by the same feelings," McClurkin went on. "When I have suffered with the same feelings. Don't call me a homophobe, when I love everybody ... Don't tell me that I stand up and I say vile words against the gay community because I don't. I don't speak against the homosexual. I tell you that God delivered me from homosexuality."
McClurkin's words drew raucous applause from the crowd, who had lined up around the block to get into the Township Auditorium in Columbia.
Although a small demonstration led by the South Carolina Gay & Lesbian Pride Movement had gathered across the street from the concert venue, they were dwarfed by the crowd of black Gospel fans and Obama supporters who turned out to see the performance.
Meanwhile, Obama staff were inside and outside the building, working the crowd and trying to register new voters.
Nearly all of the African-American concert-goers interviewed by CNN expressed support for McClurkin. Some referenced the First Amendment, saying McClurkin had the right to say what he pleased. Others agreed with McClurkin and said that homosexuality is a choice. Several more invoked the Bible and said homosexuality is simply wrong.
A September poll conducted by Winthrop University and ETV showed that 74 percent of South Carolina African-Americans believe homosexuality is "unacceptable."
Michael Vandiver, president of the South Carolina Gay and Lesbian Pride Movement said that he was disappointed by Obama's refusal to take McClurkin off the bill, but that he hopes it will be an opportunity for new dialogue.
"This is not a protest of Senator Obama, but rather a vigil in opposition of Reverend McClurkin and his statements on homosexuality," Vandiver said before the concert. "We're also here to show our support for Rev. Andy Sidden."
Sidden is the white, gay pastor added to the concert bill as a last minute compromise by the Obama campaign. Sidden's appearance was notably brief and anti-climactic: He said a short prayer to the auditorium at the very beginning of the program, when the arena was only about half full, and then he left.
Obama, while not present, appeared on a videotaped message to the crowd, saying, “The artists you’re going to hear from are some of the best in the world, and favorites of Michelle and myself.”
McClurkin said during the concert that he had been introduced to Obama by Oprah Winfrey.
– CNN South Carolina Producer Peter Hamby
McClurkin's comments as reported are courageous and appropriate. May we have many more preachers like him, that love the sinner and hate the sin, and aren't afraid to say so.
And may those who disagree with McClurkin show tolerance toward the opinions of others, even his opinions. Intolerance toward and bigotry against Bible-based morality is nothing that any group should be proud of.
Hopefully, somebody will ask McClurkin more about his transformation. When he says he's "no longer homosexual" does that mean he no longer acts on his attractions (i.e., homosexuality is something you do) or does that mean that he is no longer attracted to men (i.e., homosexuality is who you are inside) Without that distinction, his words don't have much meaning...
How Obama stands behind this man is reflective of his character. I once was a supporter, but seeing how his staff operates first hand I can tell you, he is the worst Democrat running; nothing fresh here.
74% of African Americans disapprove of homosexualoty, sounds like a winning strategy for Obama to get the black vote back... politics as usual. Divide and conquor, right Barak? Thought you were going to be different. Same old devisive tactics that got the Republicans elected!
I am with Mc Clurkin, in that I understand what it is like to struggle with homosexual thoughts. I too, believe it is wrong and I am glad that he is standing up for what he believes in. I think it is great that Mc Clurkin was able to be free from homosexuality.
Mr. MCClurkin does not know what he's talking about. Most intelligent, sane people know that you cannot change sexual orientation and it is most definitely not a choice, but rather part of the human sexual continuum. Mr. Switcheroo was able to make the change because he was never truly gay to begin with. Got it? Good.
And please spare us the religious nonsense. If there is a god up there (where?), he would be very upset that he screwed up putting us humans together. But gee, how could he throw the cosmos together in record time and screw up making us dopes, huh? Some of my fellow human beings are really pathetic!
I cant beleive Obama even panders to the militant gay comunity, everyone knows homosexuality is a choice but them..
This story has helped me make my decision on whom to support in the California primary – and it's DEFINITELY not Barak Obama. Over the past two weeks he's encamped with the type of religious zealots that caused me to abandon the Republican party during the 1980 campaign when Ronald Reagan handed it over to Jerry Falwell and his ilk.
Don't judge the guy. He went through the experience, not anyone else.
As one of the people who took part in the vigil, I have to say that Mr. McClurkin was evasive in his comments.
He also accused lgbts of wanting to harm children. Conveniently he would not talk about that.
Thank you Rev. McClurkin for pointing out that when we sin, it is not against other people, but against God!! So few people grasp this truth.
God Bless Rev. McClurkin for speaking out...There is hope for us all, through the love of the Lord Jesus Christ and for what HE did for us on the cross.
I truly think Obama is doing both himself, his campaign, and Americans in general an injustice by having this man speak for him and his campaign. Any man that chooses to affiliate himself with something as vile as the ex-gay movement is no man I want as my leader.
Thank you, Lord for Donnie McClurkin. The philosophy that homosexuality is acceptable and not a choice is debilitating our society. Let us continue to love our gay brothers and sisters and pray they'll follow Rev. McClurkin's example. Faith works because God is faithful.
Rev. McClurkin had only related his own personal experience with homosexuality. He has not infringed nor condemed anybody else's lifestyle choice.
For anyone to condemn Obama, by mere association to Rev. McClurkin, as being anti Homosexual is absurd.
McClurkin deserve praise. I'm one of the guys who has been delivered from homosexuality through relationship with Jesus Christ. Homosexuality is a sin, period. "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom". You want to be free, accept Jesus as your Lord.
This just shows how obama flip flops from Politics of hope,a joke to a jokester who doesn't like gays,all he has showed us Change to gospel tours and 40 days of what,Its not Presidential to me.A singer who gets to preach on stage with Obama campaign to claim for votes from African Americans there is no change here,and Obama never ever mention this on his website ,wonder what else he's got hiding just like hiding from votes in the senate,100 of missed votes from the elected office he was elected to do , say scrwoo Chicago.he doesnt what to engaged in any of it, need to explain all those missed votes.yeah you represent Chicago alright.
I'm a gay man and I really can't understand the bizarre "gay and lesbian backlash" against Barack Obama that the article describes. Obama has run one of the most inclusive campaigns in recent memory. Mr. McClurkin is allowed his opinions and, even if I disagree with him, is also allowed to support the candidate that I support. Gays who are coming out so strongly against this are doing nothing except hurting the gay rights cause, by coming across as just as intolerant and hateful as the people we are battling against. Listen to the message McClurkin is giving and please, get off your high horses. Obama is the best hope for the advancement of all civil rights in this country. By being so up in arms about this, you are just making all gays look petty and spiteful. That's another added prejudice against me that I don't need, thank you.
We do not need another religidiot moron fanatic in the White House. I don't care if he's a Republican OR a Democrat.
We just don't need any more deluded people running this country.
I don't seem to see what all of the hubbub is about. So what if some gospel singer says that he is no longer a homosexual. There are worse things that happen in the world!
Dear Reverend McClurkin,
If you want to truly be an "Obama Supporter" as some headlines state, you should stop making divisive statements. You can believe what you want, but what is the point of knowingly blindsiding Sen. Obama?
A True Obama Supporter
What BS. Honestly, can't we as a country get beyond this whole gay-straight dillemma? People are gay, people are straight, people are bi. NOWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW let's focus on the REAL issues at hand - like Iraq, and education.
Come on, people. Let's get beyond this - it's really starting to waste time!
Barack Obama has more important things to worry about than whether a singer he enjoys and happens to book believes homosexuality is a sin.
I don't mind people fighting that viewpoint - I would, and do - but calling it a strike against Obama is absurd.
THE MEDIA NEEDS TO SHUT UP SOMETIMES AND WRITE STORIES THAT IS CONSIDERED NEWS!!! For you guys along with other news outlets yall tried to drive a wedge between Barack, gays, lesbians, Rev. McClurkin, preachers, but more importantly African Americans. TRUST ME WE LOVE BARACK AND WE'RE GOING TO TURN OUT IN MASSES FOR HIM IN THE PRIMARY!! I was born and raised in the Low Country and they are on board from Jasper, to Hampton, to Beaufort counties. But we me now in Columbia I see the excitement for Barack. When the rest of my fellow friends/family/strangers come back home and see that Hillary cant WIN on the fact that Bill was GREAT to blacks alone they will see who Barack is as a person and FALL IN LOVE WITH HIM as a person as some many of us have!!
Anderson Cooper, you are the only reporter making a big stink about this very dumb gay issue. This is a guy who chose to sing in a choir at a Barack event. Who are you to make all kinds of judgements over his "worthiness" to be part of a campaign? Barack is a uniter and brings people from all walks of life to his campaign. He will not discriminate based on age, race, gender, sexual preference, or sexual opinions. I have seen this news reported on no other news site. This is making a mountain out of a molehill. You're just going to have to accept that some people have different opinions on gays. This guy has done NO hate crimes against gays, nor were any of his opinions solicited in regards to Obama's campaign. Please, drop it. It's ridiculous and slanderous.