Hitch has a lot to say in this piece at Slate, but it’s not the angle you may be expecting in denouncing Bishop Eddie Long:

Passing through Union Station in Washington, D.C., last week, I made my usual nod to the statue of A. Phillip Randolph. You can miss it if you are not looking for it, and it has been allowed to suffer defacement. (The sculpted pair of reading glasses held in the great man’s hand was snapped off some years ago and was never replaced.) Randolph built a powerful trade union for black railroad workers and proposed the first march on Washington when Franklin Roosevelt was president. His role in the later civil rights movement was germinal and dynamic. But you never hear his name anymore, and it is not taught to schoolchildren. Nor is the name of Bayard Rustin, a charismatic black intellectual and pioneer of gay rights, who organized the March on Washington in 1963. Along with many other secular democratic heroes, Randolph and Rustin have been airbrushed from history. The easiest way to gain instant acceptance as a black “leader” these days is to shove the word Reverend in front of your name.

Or, if you are really greedy and ambitious, the word Bishop. Bishop Eddie Long of the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Georgia preaches that Bayard Rustin was a vile sinner who suffered from the curable “disease” of homosexuality. I have a rule of thumb for such clerics and have never known it to fail: Set your watch and sit back, and pretty soon they will be found sprawling lustily on the floor of the men’s room. It may be a bit early to claim the scalp of Eddie Long for this collection, but I doubt I shall have to withdraw. Here, after all, is what his friend the Rev. Timothy McDonald III, of the First Iconium Baptist Church (no less!), has to say: “This is the issue: how can you be against homosexuality and you are allegedly participating in it? That is the epitome of hypocrisy.” Cynicism and naivete seem to coexist happily in this statement. The Rev. McDonald does not quite seem to believe the rather unimpressive denials issued by his richly draped brother in Christ. And he talks as if fevered denunciation of homosexuality has never before been an early warning of repressed desire.

He goes on to say that he’s not overly concerned with the fact that Long was probably “rogering his flock,” but moreso with the stain that men like Eddie Long are on the Civil Rights Movement:

[W]hat offends me is that Long was able to get four presidents of the United States to attend his opulent circus for the funeral of Coretta Scott King in 2006. What a steep and awful decline from the mule cart that carried her husband’s coffin in 1968.

How true that is. This dovetails nicely with Eugene Robinson’s thoughts on the situation:

In 2004, Long led a march to Martin Luther King Jr.’s grave site in support of a Georgia constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. Two years later, when it was decided that Coretta Scott King’s funeral would be held at New Birth — the Kings’ daughter Bernice is one of the ministers there — veteran civil rights activist Julian Bond was outraged. “I knew her attitude toward gay and lesbian rights,” he said of Coretta Scott King. “I just couldn’t imagine that she’d want to be in that church with a minister who was a raving homophobe.”

The black church in America has long mixed political activism with a deep social conservatism. But while polls show that the nation has become much more understanding and tolerant of homosexuality, the black church has been painfully slow to change. I wrote a column several years ago suggesting that black preachers come down from the pulpit and get to know their parishioners — and I still think that would be a good start.

I’ve always found it interesting that the actual veteran civil rights leaders we still have with us, and the late Coretta Scott King, tend to be pretty good on the issue of equal rights for all. The ones who lived through that struggle seem to mostly get it.

But then you have charlatans like Eddie Long, Alveda King, and many, many others, who seem to have taken it off in a whole new direction, where equal rights just aren’t meant for everyone.

Thanks, religion.

[h/t Timothy Beauchamp @ AmBlogGay]