Mullins Gets Churched

Nick Defiesta PhotoSteven R. Mullins took his kids to church in New Haven Sunday. Four churches, in fact.

Mullins lives in West Haven. The four churches he visited are in New Haven’s Dixwell and Newhallville neighborhoods.

Mullins, a suburban Republican, knew he needed to make his face known in those churches if he has a prayer of winning an open state Senate seat covering mostly Democratic New Haven. He’s running against Democrat Gary Holder-Winfield of New Haven, a member of Newhallville’s Community Baptist Church and a familiar face to those in the local houses of worship, in a Feb. 25 special election for the 10th District seat vacated by Mayor Toni Harp.

The president of southern Connecticut’s Union of Black Episcopalians, Mullins is a regular churchgoer. Making the round during Sunday services, Mullins explained, is simply “part of campaigning in New Haven.”

Sunday’s campaigning was hampered by the recent snow accumulation and freezing temperatures. Mullins had to dig his car out of ice for half an hour and nearly arrive late for his first stop, St. Andrew’s on Shelton Avenue. The snow also seemed to delay churchgoers — by the time service was supposed to start at 10 a.m., the pews sat nearly empty.

Mullins decided his time might be better spent at nearby St. Matthew’s. His two kids in tow — including Nora, recently featured on Ann Nyberg’s show on WTNH   — Mullins set off for the unplanned stop. Mullins had the kids because his wife, a nurse at Yale-New Haven’s St. Raphael’s campus, was working.

Mullins didn’t find any more luck at St. Matthew’s. Church leadership agreed to acknowledge his presence during the service, but he wouldn’t be allowed to speak

So instead, he opted to head to Dixwell Congregational Church, where he addressed the congregation of nearly 100 at its 11 a.m. service.

During his address, Mullins (second from left in photo, next to Rev. Jerry Streets) told churchgoers that he was running for state Senate because he’s concerned about his children and their future in the state. More and more people are leaving Connecticut, he argued, because of high taxes and a “lack of common sense” in Hartford — a situation he seeks to rectify.

In an conversation with the Independent, Mullins pointed out that he would be the first representative from the Senate district to hail from West Haven, not New Haven. As a result, he said, he thinks voters have the chance to elect a senator that “thinks regionally,” instead of focusing on one town at the expense of others.

Asked for a policy example of regional thinking, Mullins pointed to his work on ESUMS, a science magnet school to be constructed in West Haven. As vice chairman of West Haven’s planning and zoning commission, Mullins voted in favor of approving ESUMS and testified in favor of waiving half of New Haven’s building fees before the West Haven City Council.

ESUMS’s success, Mullins said, demonstrated how planning as a region instead of by individual towns can reap mutual benefits, and is an example of the sort of thinking he plans to take with him to the state Senate.

“Good economic development in New Haven is going to be good for West Haven,” Mullins said.

After Dixwell Congregational Church, Mullins and kids made their final church stop at St. Luke’s on Whalley, where they were introduced by the priest at the end of the service.

Blumenthal Pays Respects

In the small commercial plaza beside St. Luke’s sits Holder-Winfield’s campaign headquarters. Holder-Winfield, currently a third-term state representative, received a boost there Sunday afternoon in the form of an endorsement by U.S. Sen. Dick Blumenthal.

After praising Holder-Winfield’s legislative accomplishments on criminal justice and education reform, Blumenthal (at left in photo, with the candidate) commended Holder-Winfield’s character as well to a crowd of over 30 supporters who were preparing for an afternoon canvass.

“You know what [Holder-Winfield] tells you is what he believes,” Blumenthal said. “Nobody gets anything in life on his or her own — that is the ethos Gary brings to public service.”

Before the endorsement, Holder-Winfield attended church that morning as well. The minister of Beulah Heights First Congregational Church, he said, spoke for him during the morning’s service.

When asked about Mullins’ remarks on regional thinking, Holder-Winfield said he didn’t quite understand the criticism. At their core, he said, New Haven and West Haven face similar challenges in areas like public safety and economic development, so it’s impossible to address one town’s difficulties in Hartford without addressing those of another.

“A regional perspective comes from [someone] who represents people by going out and talking to people, which is what I’m doing,” he said.

Previous coverage of this race:

Mullins Asks State To “Seize” New Haven Election
On The Trail, The Political Becomes Personal
Labor Backs Holder-Winfield
Candidate Cries Foul At Clerk’s Office
Holder-Winfield Files For Public Dough
Holder-Winfield Wins Party Endorsement
Goldson Drops Out
Candidates Vow To Run On Clean Money
Holder-Winfield Eyes Harp’s Senate Seat

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posted by: Walt on February 17, 2014  11:16am

I thought 501c corporations and similar tax- exempt groups had to steer clear of political involvement

Obviously seems not to apply to black clergy groups,  but I have no idea why, legally. 

That Mr Mullins, a Republican,  is allowed to speak at one of these churches is amazing.  but still weird for a tax-exempt group

Do any of you know the legal basis for the apparent special treatment re Black church non-profits’  involvement in political affairs ?

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on February 17, 2014  12:47pm

I would not exchange two five-cent cigars-even though not a smoker-for all the Colored or Negro political leaders, or rather misleaders, of our time. The fraternity is heartless, crafty and corrupt. They exist for themselves only and give no honest thought to the future, nor the condition of the people, except to exploit the aid condition to… their political benefit.
The leaders of the race are vision less and selfish. They think of none but themselves
Among the whites, we have a few political charlatans and crooks, but that race can well afford, under the circumstances, to tolerate them, because they are surrounded and circumvented by Statesmen and race Patriots who are ever vigilant and on guard in protecting the rights of their people. Among us Negroes, there is no relief from such a class, because they monopolize our politics and obstruct our outlook. The only tempering hope is religion, and that is like dry bones, we have to wait a long while for them to come together in the Valley.
To use our present political leaders there must be a conversion and reformation in head and heart. I believe it to be impossible with the inviting system of graft, therefore I suggest that leadership be assumed by our uncorruptec youth, with a program clear, positive and determined, counting well the cost of opposition and persecution which generally leads to the Bastile and the Guillotine.

MARCUS GARVEY ON “Negro leadership and what it means”

posted by: Thomas Alfred Paine on February 17, 2014  1:13pm

Churches in black communities across America have historically been the center of those communities. Politicians have customarily flocked to black churches and sought support from black religious leaders because of the churches’ influence in the black community.
However, most black churches do not endorse political candidates. Many allow opposing candidates to speak or make an appearance in their congregations. Several churches are as wise as St. Matthew’s Baptist Church and simply acknowledge the presence of the visiting politicians without allowing them to use their houses of worship for partisan campaigning.
As long as black churches allow equal access to all political candidates and do not endorse individual candidates, they are not violating the law. Churches can encourage people to register and vote. Churches can hear politicians speak. They simply should never endorse.
I do not believe there is any “special” treatment for black churches. I also do not believe that politicians limit their appeals exclusively to black religious institutions. Predominantly white religious organizations also receive visits from politicians during the campaign seasons. 
There is a black clergy organization in New Haven, The Greater New Haven Clergy Association,  which has endorsed candidates and engaged in blatant partisan political activity. I strongly oppose this type of action as unwise, unfortunate and unnecessary. Black people can and do think for themselves politically and otherwise. No one should think that black Christians vote as a block because a group of black preachers have endorsed a candidate or taken a position on an issue. This group does not speak for all black people or all black Christians in New Haven, although it does speak for Rev. Boise Kimber. If this organization holds a tax exempt status as a “religious” organization, I believe that status should be revoked.

posted by: ELMCITYPROF on February 17, 2014  2:49pm

Walt raises an interesting point though I believe his critique is somewhat myopic.
The Supreme Court has routinely ruled that churches and religious organizations DO have the Constitutional right to engage the political process on issues of substance. It’s why churches are allowed to rent space to politicians, host debates and registration drives, and even provide voter information guides.  However, said groups are expressly prohibited from endorsing or opposing any candidate for office. The IRS has interpreted that to mean that churches are well within their 1st Amendment rights to have candidates attend their services and in some cases, speak. Does allowing a candidate to speak from your pulpit automatically imply an endorsement? Perhaps in the public’s thinking. But legally it does not.

That said, it’s curious that Walt’s critique is of what he sees as some special privilege only extended to Black congregations. Members of the Religious Right who are now and have always been overwhelmingly White, have long asserted their voice on political matters with little penalty. Consider for example the enormous influence wielded by people like Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell whose congregations have long funneled money toward conservative candidates and causes. Even after his death Falwell’s University continues to prominently feature conservative politicians like Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich. Remember when they invited a “repentant” Mel Gibson to give a speech after his anti-Semitic tirade about Hollywood? Rick Warren of California helped raise millions of dollars from around the country to defeat a marriage equality bill in that state. And let’s not forget Westboro “Church”. It seems that it may be time for a broader conversation about religious communities and political involvement that doesn’t focus on a particular group

posted by: ebw1957 on February 17, 2014  5:33pm

Wow…. a “suburban Republican” from West Haven. Best tell the West Haven leaders - they thought they ran a city.

posted by: Walt on February 17, 2014  5:56pm

Thanks for all 3 responses to my query.

As indicated in replies above, I guess I must have been primarily thinking of the New Haven Black Clergy group which appears to frequently go overboard , endorsing candidates and other moves which seem questionable rather than Black churches in general.

Do not know of other local religious groups or churches which endorse candidates.  Black or White or other

My own church , and most others   I know of   would not allow candidates to speak from the pulpit or altar during campaigns, and I never   heard locally of   candidates from other than the New Haven   Black churches group being endorsed by pastors or clergy or the Church

As said by Mr Paine I   believe members of that group have used their churches to promote candidates and make endorsements.  (wrong?)

.It is the obligation of churches, I believe to speak out on moral issues,  like abortion etc as the prof pointed out above

(Never heard of the Westboro “Church”  cited by the prof so do not see its relevance to the issue)

Falwell University is also not a “Church”  nor did it endorse candidates as far as I know and Rick Warren (Never heard of him either) certainly has the right to raise money to fight for his beliefs even   when the prof disagrees with him,  I would think.

Irrelevant too it would appear

posted by: getyourfactstraight on February 17, 2014  10:20pm

I think Dick B. thinks his endorsements are helpful and it’s another photo op for him. Am I the only one who is so sick of his constant need to be in the lime light? I use to love this guy, but just tired of his habitual mug shots.

posted by: Westville Mom on February 19, 2014  12:03pm

The title of this article is an example of subliminal editorializing.

From the Urban Dictionary:

It’s kinda like you got served [as in subpoena] except its much better. Because no one really likes the church, when you get churched, you got dissed and nobody likes you.
Damn man!, that sucka emcee just got churched!
by crash landon October 10, 2004

Overly intoxicated, drunk beyond recognition. So wasted that you cannot hold a simple conversation.
Dude, I can’t remember. I was churched!
by ka.ra September 26, 2010

Other entries are too crude to cite in print.

NHI—Is this ignorance on your part (hard to believe) or intentional slander?

[Ed.: Ignorance. Thanks for the lesson!]

A national publication would have had better judgment (or better editors).

posted by: Thomas Alfred Paine on February 19, 2014  1:37pm

No need for an editorial apology for the title of this story, “Mullins Gets Churched.” Everyone with common sense and a Merriam Webster’s Dictionary clearly understood the intent of the title.
Merriam Webster is the standard American dictionary used by scholars, students and ordinary people nationwide. It defines “churched” as “affiliated with a church.”
The first known use of this term was in the 14th century. We cannot allow modern day slang to dictate and dominate change to common and traditional usage of the English language. Definitions of terms may evolve over time, but most of us understood what the author was trying to convey. Our standard of proper and journalistic English should not be the “Urban Dictionary.”
Apology not needed.

posted by: Westville Mom on February 19, 2014  2:41pm

Whew! What a relief to know that everyone in New Haven bases his or her understanding of language on the Merriam-Webster Dictionary! The public schools must be doing a superb job. 

Although, shouldn’t the reader be wondering about the need for “The president of southern Connecticut’s Union of Black Episcopalians” (who “is a regular churchgoer”) to “get” “churched”?

Isn’t he “churched” already?

Shouldn’t this church-going man be the one to “be” “churching” others?

And how does one “get churched”, as opposed to “being” “churched”?  What on earth did they DO to him? Did he not go willingly?

There is yet another ARCHAIC meaning of “to be churched” and it has to do with an old ceremony for the blessing of women after childbirth.  Based purely on Merriam-Webster though, there would still seem to be no logical reason for a “churched” man to “get churched.”

The excuse of editorial ignorance still seems a little weak, but I’ll accept it.  An “active” tense for Mr. Mullins’ campaigning would have been more accurate and would have lacked this tinge of innuendo.  Too much to ask for coverage of a Republican?