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Burris Clergy Speaks With Forked Tongues

No sooner had Sen. Dick Durbin called on Roland Burris to resign did this press release land in my e-mail inbox - and I'm sure the inboxes of reporters across the city, and maybe beyond. Let's take a look.


Strategic use of "U.S. Senator" to reinforce a level of status and privilege.

CHICAGO - Today, leaders within Illinois clergy under the auspices of Clergy Speaks Interdenominational, a wide-reaching association of predominantly African-American churches in Chicago; the Illinois Faith-Based Association; the Concerned Clergy of Illinois, a statewide, faith-based association representing thousands of churches; and, the Broadcast Ministers Alliance, released the following statement on behalf of its membership regarding U.S. Senator Roland Burris:

"Clergy representing a broad-cross section of Illinois voters have met with Sen. Roland Burris regarding his amended testimony to the Illinois Impeachment Committee and the political avalanche caused by its disclosure. We are confident Sen. Burris did nothing wrong and therefore we do not join the screeching voices calling for his resignation.

Strategic use of "screeching" voices to cast Burris critics as out-of-control reactionaries, rather than thoughtful persons who have presented rational analyses for why Burris must step down.

"We have asked the senator to remain seated and to continue his efforts to bring relief to the millions of people across this country that have been adversely impacted by the world's economic crisis.

Implication that somehow Roland Burris is single-handedly bringing "relief" to those in crisis, and that somehow only has the skills to do so that someone else would not.

We have known Roland for more than 30 years and his record is without blemish and his character without question.

This site has demolished the notion that "Roland" (use of first name to connote a personal, long-standing relationship with a good guy) has a record "without blemish." To the contrary. Way to the contrary.

He is one of the most forthright public servants we have seen in quite some time and we look forward to his work in the U.S. Senate on behalf of the people of Illinois.

Memo to ministers: Please read this. I dare you to. In the name of God.

"We are equally outraged at the vicious and unprecedented attacks against Sen. Burris by the media and its careless reporting of the facts.

Unprecedented since . . . Rod Blagojevich was the governor. Further, I suspect that not a single misreported fact will be cited.

Roland Burris is the only African-American serving in the U.S. Senate and only the fourth to have done so since the Reconstruction Era.

Therefore, he is allowed to lie under oath.

However, there have been several instances where sitting U.S. senators were accused of criminal and lewd conduct yet never has there been such a rush to judgment and by their colleagues or the nation's media.

These folks must not have cable.

In recent times we have seen senators accused of being involved in a fatal traffic accident that resulted in a death of a staffer; to corruption in the savings and loan industry; to engaging in a lascivious act in a bathroom stall to conducting seven different counts of felony corruption - and there was no groundswell of support for any of those senators to resign office that would match the call for Sen. Burris' removal.

The multiple investigations into Burris are about how he actually got the job; he hasn't been in it long enough to commit ethical violations while doing the job. Besides, the evidence is obvious.

In nearly all of those cases the senators were allowed to serve their full term. As members of the clergy, bound by both moral and ethical principal, we abhor the double standard that is being applied to Sen. Burris.

The same lax standard for the cheats and louts of the past who have occupied Senate seats should apply to our good friend Roland Burris.

"It is of particular note that some media has erroneously reported that an 'anonymous minister' speaking on behalf of all of the state's 'Black clergy' had decided to suspend its support of Burris.

Not true. The article never said the anonymous minister or the group he or she was speaking of represented "all of the state's Black clergy." So, um, that's a misreported fact on the part of Clergy Speaks. Correction, please. Be fair.

This report, which was broadcast globally, did not offer a single quote from the alleged minister nor did it indicate which "Black clergy" denomination this person spoke for given there are six distinct branches.

Just because a direct quote wasn't used doesn't make it untrue. And the minister wasn't necessarily speaking on behalf of a denomination, but of a group of ministers who had previously supported Burris. They could be from many denominations.

Later, another self-identified minister who seemingly misrepresented his affiliation was quoted in subsequent follow-up stories, without regard to any fact checking, as having been in attendance at a meeting with Sen. Burris that never happened. A handful of us did meet with the senator, but not on the day quoted and not with the minister quoted.

I don't know anything about this, but even if true, neither the "self-identified minister" nor the reporters were under oath.

Such reporting is not only an embarrassment to the fine professionals who understand the importance of accuracy but also know who the credible spokespersons are representing our profession, but also illustrative of how the some media has been two quick on the draw of casting Sen. Burris in a negative light.

I don't pick on mistakes like "two" quick because we all make them. But Burris has cast himself in a negative light, not us.

"United in our support we intend to oppose any effort to remove him from office, destroy his unblemished record of public service, and remove the only sitting African-American in the United States Senate. We do not agree with Sen. Dick Durbin's request for Burris to resign. We intend to meet with Sen. Burris again in a matter of days and after that time we will announce our next course of public action."

I can hardly wait.

Submitted by, Rev. Dr. Albert Tyson - president, Clergy Speaks Interdenominational
Bishop Cody Marshall - president, Concerned Clergy of Illinois
Rev. Walter P. Turner - president, Illinois Faith-Based Association
Rev. Dr. Clay Evans - president emeritus, Broadcast Ministers Alliance of Chicago

Jesus was not available for comment.


See also "Open Letter: Dear Illinois African-American Community."


Posted on February 24, 2009

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