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
Some have said, what is the issue with Donnie's comment that he is no longer homosexual. I don't have any issue with that more power to him and praises be to god for delivering him. What I have the issue with is him stating that "it is a choice." That could not be further fromt he truth. I can only speak for myself being an openly gay male but, I knew from my earliest memories (5 or 6 yrs old) that I was different. I liked girls and thought they were pretty and wanted to be around them but, only as friends. When I looked at a boy it was a different feeling I wanted to touch them and feel them next to me and was aroused. So to me I have an issue when anyone says it's a choice. I pose the question to society to think would you choose to live a life that you are hated, discriminated against, can loose your job, be denied housing, even attacked because you are LGBT and even disowned by your family? The logical answer would be NO!!! I would also like to put the thought out there to the african-american community to ask why do you think we have the highest rate of HIV infection? Here again the logical answer we shun and condemn so much that we make our males ashamed to be themselves. The black male is forced to hide and be on the DL resulting in hurt to our females. There is so much more to be said on this subject but there is just not enough space here to say it but, I will say until our community can come together and stop the condeming and fighting we will always struggle. Accept people for who they are not what they are doing behind close doors. What is going on behind close doors is NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS.
How can one discount Mclurkins experience because it's not your own. How dare anyone try to discredit his experience with your own. Why does it matter? It doesn't. Why are people still being caught up in the media's hoopla? People are petty. The thing that Mr. Mclurkin is being accused of, the LGBT community is doing to him. And that's a shame because I'm a part of that community. Obama's got my support because his judgement is proven. Somehow in all this talk about Hilary's supposed greater experience and petty banter about religious belief, that has been missed. The politics of old are created by us, allowed by us, the people. If we truly listened to what Mr. Obama says and stop being puppets of the media, then we'd see what he truly stands for. Change. You won't see change if you're still looking through old lenses. Upgrade your prescription people.
The only thing I hate in this issue is CNN!!!!! CNN is truly the Clinton News Network. Why not find someone that's a nut that's going to vote for Hillary. That shouldn't be to hard to find.
As if Barack Obama really needed to secure more of the black votes in the United States. Does he not understand that while 74% of the black population disapprove of homosexuality amazingly 24.7% of the black population are poverty stricken. So understandably he wants the black vote, however, I am sure that he wants money for his campaign as well. As I have researched I have come to conclude that while 25% of African American citizens are poverty stricken only 5% of the homosexual in this country is poverty stricken. Obama while I understand that need to secure votes please understand that you are not going to go anywhere in your race against Hillary by swaying in votes because of race, sexuality, or gender. After all there are more than 15 million gay, lesbian, and bisexual residents of this country. Most of which you have angered. Good luck with the campaign we will see you as a back runner in 2012.
He is not in support of Obama – he is just about clearing his name. I think it is bad when preachers throw their influence to the dogs. This reflects the defect in his character – he is vain and seeks vain glory!
Youre a fool trapped in an idiot's body!
Yes he has been set "straight" I also have been changed from blue eyed blond, Caucasian Irish decent to African American.
My support and more so respect for Obama has really diminished as result of this story. McClurkin can say he has be cured from "homosexuality" as a result of God, religon, or faith, we'll see...I would not bet any money on it.
this is just a semantic argument. two different definitions of homosexuality are in play. one is, if you don't act on homosexual feelings, then you're not a homosexual. by this definition, it is possible to change (but who you are inside has not changed)
the other definition is that its about who you are attracted to – irrespective of whether or not you ever act on it. with this view, its possible to be a virgin, but still gay - and you can't change since who yourr wired to love is not a concious decision
Listen I was born with the 'blackest genes' there are! Nobody is more steeped in African American culture than me – yet – I will be the first to admit – the black vote never secured anyone in political office year to date in this great nation! So how stupid is Mr. Obama and his O gal and all of his puppet friends – to think that it will succeed today?
I don't know why Obama is still wasting money on this race. He has no hope. He should get behind Hillary like the rest of us.
Just once, I would like to see a headline that said, "Reality delivered me from God."
Please stop with the hateful ancient superstitions.
It seems that the United States is the only western nation where homosexuality is still argued and debated – as a Canadian, I have full and equal human rights, including the right to marry. I'm so proud of my Canadian citizenship. The comments I've been reading only demonstrate that America is a full thirty years behind us.
As a black male I fully stand behind Rev. McClurkin's statements. He is simply stating how God has impacted his life. There is nothing bigoted about what said. Rev McClurkin wanted to change as a result of his own convictions, who is doing the hating here?
People are born perverted – true. People are even born idiots – true dat. But people being born homosexual is like saying unicorns exist! Get real – sexual orientation – is a choice.
Adam of San Francisco, CA, you took the words out of my mouth. As a Christian, I am amazed at Christians who can quote from the Old Testament and Paul's letters but avoid the Gospels and the words and teachings of Jesus as if they contained pornography. Just who is your Savior? My Savior said nothing about homosexuality, but talked a lot about a new covenant, love, and forgiveness.
Perhaps CNN really is the "Clinton News Network." I have seen so many negative stories about Barack Obama lately and nothing but sunshine directed at the Clintons. If you looked at CNN, it would appear that the election is already over. This is clearly the strategy by the Clinton camp and their people within the media. How can any Democrat support someone who voted for the war in Iraq? It baffles me.
Thank you to Mark of Manhattan and Adam of SF.
The hypocracy of the religious right (and even the religious left for that matter) is what made this gay christian leave the church. My God and Savior does not judge who people are, for they are made in God's own creation.
Furthermore, the only sins that the bible really dictates that come from God are those established in the ten commandments. Last time I checked, homosexuality is not contained within those. Therefore, I feel justified in my belief that God is ok with who I love.
I really do pity those that believe the Almighty is nothing less than a God of love.
Isn't this the third time in less than a week in which an article about McClurkin and Obama was placed on the Ticker? Are you guys at CNN running out of news material, or what?
Gee whiz, I'm so bored!!!!!
Whatever! Just another Jesus freak in denial about himself. I would love to see his stash of porn.
So, McClurkin dates a lot of hot women now? He has a steady girlfriend? He has a girlfriend he calls sometimes? He'd like to date but can't find the time? He sounds just a little tiny bit gay to me.
In the 'small world' of gospel music, his 'reformed-gay' gimmick might seem plausible. In the larger world of politics and entertainment, less compelling. In the daily news, almost unbelievable. Sorry.
Obama has my support. Thanks for not pandering to all these hatemongers who claim to be for peace and acceptance, yet can't accept Mr. Mclurkin. Mclurkin's voice deserves to be heard just as loud as any liberal's. Don't back down. And what's with this " I'm seriously considering changing my support because of Obama's association with this man" crap? Mclurkin is human. He's not spreading hate. Just because someone's oppinion is not your own doesn't make it hate. People deserve the politics of old. People don't want change. Politics of old would've said kick Mclurkin off the concert bill. Thank you Obama for standing tall. Mclurkin spreading hate is one thing, Him relaying his experience is another. And nobody knows for sure if us gays are born this way or not. Nobody knows if it's reversable or what. So people, when you say stuff like "everybody knows gays are born that way" you relate someone's experience, not Mclurkin's. I'm gay and I leave all options open. Maybe I was born this way. Maybe not. Maybe, it's a mix of different factors. One things certain, I won't discount someone else's experience.
Wow, aren't you all spectacular. A fine example of how Christians are anything but kind and caring towards their fellow human. How could one be so blind as to not see that no one would choose homosexuality, a lifestyle that pits them against the likes of self righteous zealots like yourselves. Take a good long look at yourself and then at what you believe "Christian" to mean. Odds are you are not living that lifestyle when you judge others according to what some antiquated book states.
If McClurkin thinks he can pull this "love the sinner, hate the sin" foolishness and get over on people, he's got another thing coming. He preaches a hateful, dangerous message that repressing who you are is the only way to heaven. Please! This kind of thinking leads teenagers to suicide and creates Mark Foleys and Larry Craigs.
People hide behind the Bible to shield themselves from criticism all the time. They say, "You're discriminating against my religion!" Simply put, nobody's telling you that you can't preach waht you want, sir, but we are telling you that you are incredibly, dangerously, stubbornly wrong. End of story.
Barack completely lost my, and other gay-friendly votes, by allowing McClurkin at this concert (I know this for a fact, having talked to friends). McClurkin is definitely full of self-hatred – which, as his choice, is fine – but to inflict his beliefs onto others, and for Obama to think that's acceptable to a voter like me – big mistake.
Hillary has my vote now.