(CNSNews.com) – A group of black pastors held a press conference Monday on Capitol Hill to endorse Sen. Jeff Sessions for attorney general and testify to what they see as his high character and efforts in pursuit of justice and desegregation.
"Sen. Jeff Sessions has consistently demonstrated respect and care for people of all races while serving in his home state of Alabama," said Rev. Dean Nelson, who is chairman of the board for the Frederick Douglass Foundation and director of African-American outreach for the Family Research Council's Watchmen on the Wall, which is a ministry to pastors.
"He has, in fact, worked relentlessly on the side of desegregation and justice," Nelson said of Sessions.
"His reputation as a formidable champion for the rule of law has benefitted all of the citizens that he has served," said Nelson.
"Sen. Session has worked courageously to punish whites who victimized blacks to the fullest extent of the law and to reward courageous blacks for their contributions in our country," he said.
Bishop Kyle Searcy, senior pastor of the multi-racial, nondenominational Fresh Anointing House of Worship in Montgomery, Ala., told CNSNews.com: "We know in Alabama who Jeff Session is.
"He represents the values that we currently have," said Searcy, "and it is important for met to be a voice to that and to speak to that."
“And it’s important to me that the truth comes out about him,” he added, “that he’s known for who is, he’s known for the good things he’s done in Alabama.”
“It’s time in America that we become fair, that we stop listening to talking points,” Searcy said, referring to allegations of racism against Sessions.
"Americans are living in a toxic climate where the serious charge of racism is carelessly leveled against anyone with whom the left disagrees," said Bishop Searcy. "We are here today to make clear taht this, against Jeff Sessions, is baseless, and that he is more than qualified to be the next attorney general."
“When somebody comes up that some people would be against--based on either party affiliation or based on fears, they may be unfounded fears, but based on fears--then typically there’s a need to scrape the bottom of the barrel and try to dig out whatever you can find, that might be an accusation that people would hear that would transfer the fear they have to others,” he said.
Addressing the press conference, Bishop Searcy said: “Those of us in Alabama know him to be a very kind and a very decent man, a man that both Democrats and Republicans alike endorse and appreciate, a man who’s served well and whose track record speaks for itself.”
Rev. Nelson noted that Sessions helped prosecute and insisted on the death penalty for Ku Klux Klan (KKK) member Henry Francis Hays, who had abducted and killed a black teenager.
Bishop Harry Jackson, senior pastor at the Hope Christian Church in the D.C. area, pointed out that Sessions had “helped desegregate schools in Alabama, a huge issue.”
“Also he got the death penalty for a KKK murderer. I think that would qualify you as someone who’s eliminating racism, not one who’s perpetrating it on anyone.”
Rev. William Green, also a minister at the Fresh Anointing House of Worship, said he could always count on Sessions “to stand up and stand on Christian principles.”
Sessions is not racist, he said.
True racism, said Green, is “what you see when Dylann Roof walked in and shot people [in a Charleston church in June 2015] simply because they were black. True racism is what you see when the four young kids kidnapped that white kid and tortured him. That is true racism. I think we do true racism an injustice when we throw it around so lightly.”
Rev. Ralph Chittams, president of the D.C. chapter of the Frederick Douglass Foundation, recalled that Sessions had “spearheaded the effort to honor the mother of the civil rights movement, Rosa Parks. He spearheaded the effort to have bestowed upon her the Congressional Gold Medal [in 1999].”
Chittams quoted from a Senate floor speech by Sessions at the time in which he said, “Equal treatment under the law is a fundamental pillar upon which our republic rests…As legislators we should work to strengthen the appreciation for this fundamental governing principle by recognizing those who make extraordinary contributions towards ensuring that all American citizens have the opportunity, regardless of their race, sex, creed, or national origin, to enjoy in the freedoms that this country has to offer.”
Searcy and the other pastors met with Sessions’ staff just prior to the press conference, and Searcy called the meeting “promising.”
“I know Jeff Sessions and I know his heart of fairness so I knew that he would be amenable to the things that we shared,” he said. “We have a very deeply held concern for the African American community, for prison sentencing, for many of the things that are on people’s heart, it’s our concern.”
“We believe that Jeff Sessions can be a fair Attorney General that helps alleviate some of those problems and looks at things very fairly. And when we talked with the staff they also affirmed his heart towards those things and again opened a dialogue to begin to work with us.”
Accusations of racism against Sessions stem from testimony made against him during a hearing for a federal judgeship, which he was denied, over 30 years ago.
Thomas Figures, a black assistant U.S. Attorney who worked for Sessions, claimed that Sessions had called him “boy” and joked about the KKK.
Sessions denied the allegations and told the Senate Judiciary Committee, “I am not a racist, I am not insensitive to blacks. I have supported civil rights activity in my state. I have done my job with integrity, equality, and fairness for all.”