DALLAS – Prominent black leaders said they will work to combat Christian conservatives they say have used gay marriage and abortion to distract from larger moral issues such as the war, voting rights, affirmative action and poverty.
The Revs. Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson and Joseph Lowery and hundreds of black leaders from around the country are focusing on mobilizing black voters for the fall elections. They kicked off a three-day black clergy conference Monday in Dallas.
"There are no gay people coming to our churches asking to get married," Sharpton said. "But there are plenty of people coming with problems voting or their sons in jail."
Sharpton said tours are planned of swing states starting in July to bring out black voters and push Democrats to take a tougher stand on social justice issues.
Jackson said the mid-term elections, which will determine hundreds of congressional seats and many governorships, are a "fight for America's soul."
If Democrats fail to address social concerns, Sharpton said he has not ruled out a run for president in 2008.
A spokesman for evangelical conservatives accused Sharpton of stereotyping Christian conservatives, many of whom agree with black churchgoers on key issues.
"Let's not play off each other in ways that are based on stereotypes," said the Rev. Richard Cizik of the National Association of Evangelicals, which includes many conservative churches.
A spokeswoman for the Democratic National Committee said Democrats are not taking black voters for granted. The committee has been hiring black organizers, meeting with black leaders and speaking out on issues that concern black voters, she said.