Conservative Spotlight: Life Education and Resource Network
The Life Education and Resource Network (LEARN) is the largest African-American, evangelical, pro-life ministry in the United States. It is a coalition of black pro-life organizations and congregations that has grown since 1993 to represent 27 states.
The Rev. Johnny Hunter, one of its founders and the current president of LEARN, is a Baptist minister and ardent advocate in the pro-life movement. He has been arrested several times for his anti-abortion activism, including once for preaching in front of an abortion clinic for six hours.
Hunter summarizes LEARN’s mission as the “enhancement of the value of the child,” and he refers to himself as the “pastor to the unborn.”
The creation of LEARN was the result of a small pro-life conference funded by Human Life International in Houston in 1993. “There were 12 of us that met for the first time,” Hunter told Human Events. “It was the first black pro-life leadership meeting, and we thought that if there were 12 of us then there’s got to be more. So we decided to form a network to educate the black community.”
A veteran of the civil rights movement of the 1960s, Hunter has redefined the pro-life issue as the “new civil rights movement.”
“Abortion has killed more blacks than the Ku Klux Klan ever lynched,” Hunter said. “The early civil rights fighters did a good job of stopping the lynching, but in three days now, more black children die than were ever lynched in the history of this nation.”
According to the Alan Guttmacher Institute—considered the most reliable compiler of abortion statistics in the United States—Hunter’s assertion is not an exaggeration. Since the Supreme Court legalized abortion nationwide in its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, an estimated 43 million abortions have been performed in the United States.
Significantly, more than 14 million abortions—approximately 33% of the total—have been performed in the black community. Black women comprise only 13% of the total U.S. population of women of child-bearing age, but their abortion rate is three times greater than that of white women.
The Rev. Clenard H. Childress, Jr., national director of LEARN, told Human Events: “LEARN’s purpose is to enlighten—through activism and literature—the African-American churches and other community groups to the horrors of abortion and how it is decimating the African-American community. Our major target is the pulpit and the churches, which has been deathly silent on the issue of abortion due to political reasons.”
Childress added: “Ninety-two percent of African-Americans voted for Al Gore in the 2000 election. Nine out of 10 African-Americans vote Democratic. So due to the political platform of the Democratic Party being very much pro-choice, pro-abort, African-American people and the pastors are forced to a platform that really does not reflect their true value system.”
According to a 2004 Zogby poll, 62% of African-Americans back the pro-life perspective.
“Pastors are afraid of losing their political clout,” said Childress. “It would alienate them from their congregations, due to the Democratic Party’s being perceived as the civil rights advocate and leaders of the 1960s. And I do say perceived. When we begin to win the pulpit, then we’ll begin to win in the voting booth.”
Both Hunter and Childress have come to see that the greater good for LEARN now, and in the future, is to reach out to and educate the younger generations of blacks who will grow up in an age and a culture that has casually come to acknowledge abortion as an acceptable alternative to pregnancy and, therefore, life.
“Our biggest push from now on is going to be toward the next generation,” said Hunter. “They’ve got to see this battle, and they’ve got to understand.”
“The only way to stop abortion is through a grassroots movement of awareness because it’s too lucrative,” added Childress. “If abortion was not lucrative, then it wouldn’t be legal. And that means it’s going to be an upheaval. College campuses are the key.”