Ministers Blast N.J. Elections

Black Clergy: Incident Taints Image

Local ministers interviewed yesterday expressed outrage at allegations that New Jersey's Republican Governor-Elect Christine Todd Whitman paid Black ministers to refrain from urging their congregations to vote for her opponent.

Whitman's campaign manager Edward J. Rollins said that Whitman endorsed payments to ministers totalling $500,000, in connection with asking the ministers not to make strong efforts to get out the vote for Democratic incumbent Gov. Jim Florio.

"Walking around money," normally used to cover expenses such as lunch and transportation costs for poll workers, was given to Black ministers to stop the members of their congregation from voting, Rollins said.

Rollins has since retracted his statement, saying it was an exaggeration.

Local pastors interviewed yesterday agreed that this incident taints the image of all Black ministers.


"It is a throwback to the dark ages," said the Rev. Herman L. Greene of the Pentecostal Tabernacle Church and president of the Cambridge Black Pastors Conference in Cambridge.

"It is an insult to the black clergy," said the Rev. Rawle W. Garner, dean of the African Orthodox Churches. "Black ministers are not going to be pawns...for [Republicans or Democrats] to benefit politically."

The Rev. Aiden C. Ward of the Apostolic Pentecostal Church in Cambridge criticized Whitman's alleged actions.

"I don't think that we as ministers should take money to put someone in office," he said. "Everyone should have the choice to vote for who they want as their candidate."

"Pastors must be servants in the community," said the Rev. L. Nelson Foxx of Cambridge's St. Bartholomew's Episcopal Church and vice president of the Black Pastors Conference. "They must provide leadership and integrity with in the community. This is the primary goal specifically for Black clergy."

Foxx said he recognizes a minister's temptation to be more politically involved but emphasized that the proper role is to be a "watchdog or a moral and ethical advocate as opposed to 'buying in.'"

The Rev. Willard A. Williams of the Grace United Methodist Church in Cambridge Williams said the allegations make Black ministers look like "easy targets."

Local ministers agreed Whitman's alleged conduct is an attempt to undermine Blacks' political power and said this type of activity has never occurred in Cambridge.

"They are trying to dilute the voting strength of the Black population," Greene said, but described the Cambridge pastors as being "united as far as encouraging the people to vote."

The ministers said the resolution to this problem lies in a thorough investigation and increased activism and vigilance on the part of Black voters.

"It should be taken as a matter for the Justice Department to deal with in an honorable way and bring about justice to the minorities hurt in this situation," Greene said.

If the accusations prove true, Williams said, negation of the election may benecessary.

"They [Black voters] must screen all thecandidates and be certain that they are speakingout on their behalf and that it is not just amatter of trying to obtain their vote," Greenesaid.

"Blacks must realize the power of theirstrength is through the ballot," he said

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