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VOL. 132 | NO. 56 | Monday, March 20, 2017

Parkinson Rejects Owens’ Politics After He is Honored

By Sam Stockard

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NASHVILLE – Recognition for the Rev. Bill Owens turned into a rebuke on the House floor when a Memphis legislator discovered the activist pastor campaigned for President Donald Trump and urged black voters to leave the Democratic Party.

At the request of Memphis Democratic Rep. John DeBerry, members of the Tennessee Black Caucus and other legislators gathered in the House chamber to honor the lifelong work of Owens, a Memphis resident, with a resolution recognizing his efforts in civil rights, education and in founding CAAP, a group dedicated to Christ-centered and traditional family values that became known for “its fearless defense of family, marriage and religious freedom.”

Later in the session last Thursday, though, Rep. Antonio Parkinson, a Memphis Democrat, spoke to clarify his position after receiving information about Owens’ efforts on behalf of the Trump campaign last year.

“Earlier today, we recognized and honored Rev. Bill Owens for his civil rights work. But there were some things that he was part of recently that I as a Democrat do not endorse, and I want to make sure that it’s public that I don’t support some of the things that he has done here recently,” Parkinson said.

Parkinson said he supported Owens’ civil rights activities at the time of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and came to the defense of DeBerry, who, he said, has “integrity above all” but didn’t know about some of Owens’ activities during the 2016 presidential campaign.

“And with that Madame Speaker, I just want to make it publicly known that state Rep. Antonio Parkinson does not support or endorse the recent activities of Rev. Bill Owens,” he said.

Numerous reports show Owens, president of the Coalition of African American Pastors, endorsed Trump and called on black voters to leave the Democratic Party last fall.

“Donald Trump asked black voters and Christians to give him a chance and that’s exactly what we did,” Owens is quoted as saying in several published reports. “The Coalition of African American Pastors launched a sustained campaign to persuade black voters to stop letting themselves be used by the failed policies and empty promises of Democratic politicians. It is clear this is a message that resonated with many voters and helped make Mr. Trump our next president.”

CBNNews.com reported Owens said the “one-sided” relationship between blacks and the Democratic Party led to the destruction of black communities, weak families and a “future of dependency.” In addition, he said Democrats take the black people’s vote for granted and ignore them in favor of interest groups.

According to the report, Owens’ wife, Deborah Owens, appealed to black women voters in the 2016 election by saying the Democratic Party is “anti-life, anti-traditional marriage, anti-Christ and anti-religion.”

The resolution honoring Bill Owens notes he taught elementary school in Memphis before moving to Los Angeles where he worked at a Chevrolet assembly plant. Later he enrolled at Oral Roberts University and led efforts to increase enrollment of black students, including raising more than $2 million for scholarships. Later, he earned a master’s degree at Christian Brothers University, founded CAAP and now travels extensively to speak on values and serves as a political consultant. He has been a talk-show guest of Fox News’ Megyn Kelly, Neil Cavuto and Lou Dobbs as well as CNN’s Carol Costello and has been featured in several local and national publications, according to the resolution.

During the House floor recognition, Owens and his wife and two small children stood as the resolution was read. DeBerry noted his father and Owens were among those in Memphis when King marched during the late 1960s.

“I recognize the fact that while there are so few of them left, I want you to meet this good man who has taught school, who has defended the family, who has stood for the values of all people,” DeBerry said. “And he’s someone I think is worthy that the House and the Senate and this body recognize for his work over the years.”

Owens told House members he did not have the words to express his appreciation for the honor, but said he hoped he could “prove worthy” during the rest of his life.

Sam Stockard is a Nashville-based reporter covering the Legislature for The Memphis Daily News. He can be reached at sstockard44@gmail.com.

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