The African Methodist Episcopal Church’s national body formally condemned Thursday the U.S. House of Representatives’ contempt action against Attorney General Eric Holder, drawing a clear link between acts of oppression against blacks in the past and the partisan politics of today.
Church representatives attending the 49th General Conference unanimously passed a resolution calling the contempt vote “political in nature and designed, as were the evil strategies employed following the Reconstruction era, to suppress the votes of those who might change the balance of political power in Congress and in the White House.”
Founded in 1794, The AME Church is the oldest of the predominantly black denominations in the U.S., and one of the largest. Its leaders currently are gathered in Nashville for their quadrennial general conference at which First lady Michelle Obama delivered the keynote address.
Holder was held in criminal and civil contempt of Congress on Thursday for failing to provide certain documents related to a gunwalking sting operations conducted by the Department of Justice and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives between 2006 and 2011 that provided weapons to Mexican drug cartels and led to violence, including the killing of a U.S. border control agent.
A subpoena led to the release of about 7,000 pages in DOJ documentation, but additional documents were withheld after President Obama invoked executive privilege.
Holder has consistently denied knowledge of the tactics used in the gunwalking operation, calling it “flawed in its concept and flawed in its execution,” and he requested an investigation in February.
On June 28, after months of testimony and appearances by Holder before Rep. Darrell Issa (R–Calif.), chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R–Iowa), ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the attorney general became the first cabinet member to be held in contempt of Congress. The vote, 255-67, included 17 Democrats. Many more Democrats walked off the floor in protest.
After referring to historical examples of political discrimination against blacks, the AME Church resolution proceeds to reprimand Congress:
“Whereas the House of Representatives has held Attorney General Holder in contempt for the ‘Fast and Furious’ program initiated by the prior Presidential Administration’s Justice Department and discontinued by Attorney General Holder upon his discovery of the program, and,
“Whereas those who have held Attorney General Holder, America’s first African-American Attorney General, in contempt have been consistently and systematically disrespectful of the Attorney General and of President Barack Obama, and,
“Whereas the attack against Attorney General Holder comes after his stated intent to determine whether recent laws passed to combat non-existent voter fraud are actually efforts at voter suppression that violate the Voting Rights Act,
“Be it, therefore, hereby resolved that the 49th General Conference of the African Methodist Episcopal church condemns the contemptible action taken against the office held by Attorney General Eric Holder and finds that action to be political in nature and designed, as were the evil strategies employed following the Reconstruction era, to suppress the votes of those who might change the balance of political power in Congress and in the White House.”