E.W. Jackson, the pastor who has been nominated as Republican nominee for lieutenant governor in Virginia, insists he will keep his religious views in the pulpit and his political views in the campaign.
In an exclusive Newsmax interview, he also says he isn't the one who made an issue of his anti-gay sermons. It was his opposition.
Jackson's controversial statements were made as part of his job as a Christian minister, he tells Newsmax TV, and he doesn't back down from them. But opponents, he said, have taken them out of context.
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"I respect every human being, I don't believe that there's any second-class citizens in Virginia, I don't treat anybody any differently because of their sexual orientation," Jackson said. "But the rabid, radical homosexual activist movement is really trying to fundamentally change our culture and redefine marriage and do a number of things that are just not good at all."
Jackson, who has never held public office, said he won the nomination over more seasoned politicians based on his support of limited government, low taxation, limited regulations and a free market, not his religious beliefs.
Those beliefs would not play into his job if he is elected to the state's second-highest office, he said.
A Harvard Law graduate, Jackson, 61, points out he has never gone into a courtroom and quoted Scriptures, but instead quoted the law.
"I understand the difference between serving in elected office and serving as a minister."
He believes, for example, that people who are in same-sex marriages performed in states where they are legal should be treated with respect.
"I respect the right of any American to do what is legal," he said. "It doesn't mean I respect what they do."
While committed to keeping gay marriage from becoming legal in Virginia, Jackson said, "I don’t believe that in a state that chooses to do that that people ought to be persecuted for exercising their right within the laws of that state."
Jackson, the head pastor at the Exodus Faith Ministries in Chesapeake, says critics are trying to impose a "religious test" to say anyone who has traditional view of the Bible are unfit for public office.
"The problem with that is they're ridiculing millions of people across Virginia who are in church every Sunday morning and who operate by faith in God," he said.
Opposition from the Democratic Party would normally be expected, but he says he has had trouble garnering support from some fellow Republicans. He finds that troubling, noting that critics fail to mention his other qualities, including his time as a Marine in Vietnam and his founding of a Martin Luther King breakfast to bring people together in his hometown.
Current GOP Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling called some of Jackson's past statements about gays, race and abortion "simply indefensible."
Jackson said he was disappointed, but not surprised.
"Bill Bolling clearly has a major problem with the fact that Ken Cuccinelli is the nominee (for governor) and that concern runs downticket for him."
Virginia's Senate is equally split between Democrats and Republicans, with the lieutenant governor casting the deciding vote when an issue falls along party lines. Bolling voted with Democrats against implementing voter ID, but Jackson says he would have decided the matter the other way.
"As an American of African descent, a black American, I want every American to be able to vote, and that certainly includes black Americans," he said. "I do not consider an ID to be an unnecessary obstacle or restriction."
Though he might face several opportunities to vote on other issues with Democrats, he says he can imagine no instance when he would.
"It would mean that the Democrat Party would have to become a different kind of party," he said, "and the Republican Party would have to have lost its way."
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