Black Pastors Reject LGBT-Civil Rights Comparison, Defend Baker's Religious Freedom to Reject Gay Wedding

African-American Christian leaders clad in suits and dresses speak in front of the U.S. Supreme Court building, behind a sign reading "WeGotYourBackJack.com"

On Monday, a group of black pastors and Christian leaders sent a message to the baker whose refusal to serve a same-sex wedding will come before the Supreme Court in December: "We've got your back, Jack!" The pastors and ministry leaders — including an ex-lesbian — firmly endorsed religious freedom, rejecting the Left's comparisons between the LGBT movement and the civil rights movement.

"Those standing with me today do so because they understand that no person should be forced by the government to violate his or her conscience," the Rev. Dean Nelson, chairman of the Frederick Douglass Foundation and senior fellow for African-American affairs at the Family Research Council (FRC), told reporters. "No one should be forced out of business and have his livelihood destroyed because of what he believes. This is America, people have the right to freedom of expression and freedom of conscience."

Nelson and other black Christian leaders announced a new initiative entitled "We Got Your Back, Jack." The project defends Colorado baker Jack Phillips, owner of the bakery "Masterpiece Cakeshop." On December 5, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in his case, Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission.

In 2012, the commission charged Phillips with breaking the state's anti-discrimination law by refusing to provide a cake for Charles Craig and David Mullins. The law stipulates that businesses open to the public may not deny service to customers based on their race, religion, sex, or sexual orientation. State courts upheld the commission's ruling, but Phillips appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing he deserved a religious exemption based on free speech and free exercise of religion. He did not turn away gay or lesbian people from his shop, but he did refuse to bake a special cake for a same-sex wedding, on free speech grounds.

"Colorado cake artist, Jack Phillips, serves everyone, but he doesn't use his creative expression for every event," the "We Got Your Back, Jack" website explains. "When a cake artist declines to design a cake for a Halloween party, the world goes about its business. But if that same cake artist declines a request for a custom cake for a same-sex wedding, he is forced to defend his decision all the way to the United States Supreme Court."

"The government exists to protect those who have diverse opinions and viewpoints, not to punish them," Nelson declared.

"We had to fight for equal treatment because of the color of our skin," the Rev. William Avon Keen, Virginia president of Martin Luther King Jr.'s organization, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), told reporters Monday, according to Religion News Service. "Christians should not be forced to support sin."

Keen argued that the civil rights movement's efforts against segregation are fundamentally different from the LGBT movement's attempt to crack down on religious freedom.

Debate about whether or not photographers, bakers, and florists can refuse to serve same-sex weddings has grown particularly fierce in recent years. Phillips is far from alone. Other Christians in the same situation include Washington state florist Barronelle Stutzman, Oregon bakers Aaron and Melissa Klein, and Michigan farmers Steve and Bridget Tennes.

In July, LGBT megadonor Tim Gill told Rolling Stone, "We're going to punish the wicked," meaning anyone who refuses to serve same-sex weddings. One activist group in Ohio announced plans to force churches to host same-sex weddings. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has listed Christian organizations, including FRC, as "hate groups" along with the Ku Klux Klan.

Notably, LGBT activists have compared their movement to the civil rights movement, a comparison these black pastors and religious leaders found particularly offensive.

"I resent having my race compared to what other people do in bed," Janet Boynes, founder of Janet Boynes Ministries (JBM), told reporters at the event. "There is no comparison. It only trivializes racial discrimination." According to its website, JBM ministers "to individuals who question their sexuality or who wish to leave homosexuality." Boynes herself has lived a lesbian lifestyle for 14 years.

"For the LGBTQ activists to equate their suppression of conscience to the struggles of the civil rights movement is both offensive and inflammatory," Patrina Mosley, assistant director of FRC Action, declared. To illustrate the issue, she told a story about her own mother when she was young — white parents chided their daughter for speaking with a "Negga."

"Those of the LGBTQ community have always been served and never turned away simply because of their sexual orientation, unlike people of color (which they cannot choose)," Mosley explained. "When it comes to the owner of these establishments like Jack Phillips, breaking their conscience and religious convictions is a totally different issue and the law is on his side."

Mosley argued that "the very nature of the First Amendment is the freedom to co-exist," and that "this foundational idea is under assault by those who claim to be the champions for freedom and tolerance, who are suppressing faith and conscience of those they don't agree with."

She attacked anyone who would "equate this bullying" with the struggles of Martin Luther King, Jr. The great civil rights leader called his volunteers "an army whose allegiance was to God... it was an army that would sing but not slay... no arsenal except its faith, no currency but its conscience."

"What the LGBTQ activists fail to realize as they try to equate their 'struggle' with the civil rights movement is that the civil rights movement was born out of the very conscience they are trying to quench," Mosley declared.

The "We Got Your Back, Jack" campaign has tools to show just how offensive the LGBT-civil rights comparison is to many black people. One particularly striking image showed the typical segregated water fountains — one "white," one "colored" — with a third water fountain in rainbow colors, marked "LGBT." The text on the image: "One of these never happened."

three water fountains, one for whites, one for colored people, one for LGBT, with the text "One of these never happened." We Got Your Back Jack website screenshot.