On Sunday, I was sitting in a rear pew of the Allen Memorial Church of Mount Vernon, ears still tingling from two hours of inspired gospel music, when I heard the Rev. Carlton Spruill compare the Democratic Party to Sodom and Gomorrah.
"George Bush is a meanspirited man," Spruill declared. "He's gone back on his promises about faith-based charity. Everybody knows he's lying about Iraq. But the Democratic Party supports same-sex marriage. Homosexuality is a perversion that will destroy America, just as it destroyed Rome and Sodom and Gomorrah. If the Democrats are right about same-sex marriage, then God has to apologize to Sodom. And God's not about to apologize."
The congregation responded with applause and amens.
"I know that voting is a precious right," Spruill told them. "But this time I don't see how I can vote. Sometimes you've just got to sit out an election."
"I'm a Democrat," he told me when I called to make sure I had understood him correctly and that he had instructed his congregation not to vote for John Kerry. "I've been a Democrat all my life. But if I had to vote this year, if I absolutely had to, I'd vote for George Bush."
This is not a personal eccentricity of Spruill's. His denomination, the Church of God in Christ, is unambiguously opposed to same-sex marriage.