American Family Association spokesman Bryan Fischer made a generalization about the end of slavery during his daily "Focal Point" broadcast on Friday, claiming that conservative, evangelical Christians ended slavery.
"It was faith that motivated the abolitionists. Evangelical, conservative Christians were the ones who were driving the train on the abolitionist movement," Fischer said, "so don't let anybody tell you that Christians were big time supporters of slavery."
Fischer cited PBS mini-series "The Abolitionists" as the source behind this claim, which has also shown up on other evangelical websites.
However, it could be argued that Fischer, who has drawn the ire of groups such as the Southern Poverty Law Center and GLAAD for anti-gay rhetoric, seems to be simplifying a complicated historical question.
Another PBS special, "Slavery and the Making of America," closely examines the role of religion and slavery in the U.S. during the 19th century. The article concludes that while it is true that evangelicals during the early 19th century opposed slavery, Southern clergyman soon began to shift their position on the issue:
Protestant clergymen began to defend the institution, invoking a Christian hierarchy in which slaves were bound to obey their masters. For many slaveholders, this outlook not only made evangelical Christianity more palatable, but also provided a strong argument for converting slaves and establishing biracial churches.
As the BBC notes, there are numerous references to slavery in the Bible, and different passages have been used to both condemn and condone the practice. For example, St. Paul's Epistles call for slaves to "obey their masters" (1 Peter 2: 18-25).
Frederick Douglass, one of the most prominent abolitionists, also gave a speech in London in 1846 decrying church leaders in America for helping to prop up the institution. Douglass said that ministers in America had "thrown themselves across the pathway of emancipation."
I have heard sermon after sermon, when a slave, intended to make me satisfied with my condition, telling me that it is the position God intended me to occupy; that if I offend against my master, I offend against God; that my happiness in time and eternity depends on my entire obedience to my master.
Furthermore, the Southern Baptist Convention, a powerhouse group of evangelicals, was actually founded in 1845 in order to defend slavery, USA Today notes.
What do you think of Fischer's statements? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.