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A brotherhood and friendship: Father Michael Pfleger stands with Farrakhan despite opposition, threats

By Starla Muhammad -Managing Editor- | Last updated: May 15, 2019 - 12:28:32 PM

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Father Michael Pfl eger sits next to Minister Louis Farrakhan, of the Nation of Islam, before they both speak at Saint Sabina Church, May 9, in Chicago. Photo: Ashlee Rezin/Chicago Sun-Times via AP
CHICAGO—One of the most vocal, unwavering and supportive voices when it comes to embracing and defending Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan is coming from what appears to many observers to be an unlikely person—a Catholic priest.

Not just any Catholic priest, a White Catholic priest. And he is being targeted and threatened because of it.

Father Michael Louis Pfleger, senior pastor of the Faith Community of Saint Sabina and Min. Farrakhan have been friends and brothers in faith for over 30 years. It is a friendship of mutual respect that transcends race and religious ideology.

When social media giant Facebook announced it banned the Muslim leader from its social media platforms, which includes Instagram, Father Pfleger was first to stand up among prominent faith leaders and strongly condemn the decision. He posted his views about the ban on his personal social media sites. But the longtime activist priest didn’t just stop there. He invited his longtime companion in the fight for freedom and truth to address the ban from the pulpit of his church at a May 9 community event and rally in a show of support. It was a move that was applauded by truth-seekers, proponents of free speech and allies of the Nation of Islam. But it was also widely condemned by many of the same enemies that seek to dismantle and destroy the nearly 90-year-old Muslim movement and Min. Farrakhan.

“It is dangerous to me when we begin to stop free speech and seek to silence prophetic voices. There are many who say that they do not like Minister Farrakhan because all they have heard is various soundbites.  Perhaps that is why Facebook wanted to ban him, to keep people from hearing his whole talk, his entire message and the truth that he seeks to teach us,” said Father Pfleger in opening remarks at the #WeAreFarrakhan rally in front of a standing room only audience packed in pews.

“I do not know of another man in America who can fill arenas around this country oftentimes with many of them if not a majority of them not Muslim but simply want to love the Minister and hear his teachings,” said Father Pfleger.

The Archdiocese of Chicago was quick to distance itself from the invitation issued by Father Pfleger to the Minister and issued a May 9 statement ahead of the St. Sabina gathering.  

“The event involving Minister Louis Farrakhan at St. Sabina Parish is not sponsored by the Archdiocese of Chicago. Cardinal Cupich was not consulted before Fr. Pfleger announced the event,” read the statement in part. Cardinal Blase Joseph Cupich serves as the ninth archbishop of the Archdiocese of Chicago.

The remainder of the statement did not mention Min. Farrakhan by name but alluded to the importance of the First Amendment, why it must never be abused and that “there is no place in America for discriminatory rhetoric.” 

Fritzie Fritzshall, president of the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center located in Skokie, Ill. condemned Father Pfleger for inviting Min. Farrakhan to speak. 

In addition to his decade’s long friendship with Min. Farrakhan, Father Pfleger is no stranger to controversy or being on the front lines in the fight for equity and justice particularly in Chicago where he heads the predominately Black congregation on the city’s Southwest side where he has served since 1981. He has worked tirelessly in efforts to keep peace in the streets among young people by hosting Peace Basketball Tournaments, conflict resolution sessions, Stop the Violence marches and much more.

He attended the historic 1995 Million Man March and subsequent mass gatherings held by the Minister and the Nation of Islam including 10.10.15 commemorating the 20th anniversary of the 1995 march. Father Pfleger has attended the Nation’s annual Saviours’ Day conventions over the years and Min. Farrakhan has spoken several times at St. Sabina.

However, Father Pfleger’s outspokenness has come with a price, even from within the Vatican. In 2008 he was suspended over remarks made about the presidential run of Senator Hillary Clinton. In 2011 he was suspended four weeks for what then Cardinal Francis George said was misrepresentation of events surrounding the possibility of the priest being removed from St. Sabina and assigned to become the principal of Leo High School.

In July of last year, he led a peaceful march on a major highway in Chicago, disrupting traffic in efforts to call an end to violence and neglect of the city’s Black neighborhoods. He was an outspoken critic of the city’s handling of the shooting death of teenager Laquan McDonald and the city’s scourge of police misconduct.

Yet it may be his latest stand in support of Min. Farrakhan that will bring even more opposition. After the May 9 event, he has been blasted and condemned further by those that continue to malevolently, yet purposely and strategically, mischaracterize Min. Farrakhan’s remarks, particularly about certain members of the Jewish community referred to by Jesus in the Bible as, “The Synagogue of Satan”—and his pointing out of the disparaging language about Jesus, Mary and disturbing treatment of women and children sanctioned in the Jewish collection of laws and traditions—the Babylonian Talmud.

Demands for the Chicago Archdiocese to remove Father Pfleger have increased since May 9 including from representatives of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, an influential Pro-Zionist, Jewish-led organization headquartered in California.

“It is now up to the leaders of the Catholic church to remove their prominent priest from his hallowed post,” Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Associate Dean, Director Global Social Action Agenda of the center reacted in part. Cardinal Cupich released another statement May 10 accusing Min. Farrakhan of “smearing” Jewish people with “anti-Semetic rhetoric.”  

But Father Pfleger seems up to the challenge and seemingly anticipated the backlash he is now enduring based on his remarks at the event.  

“This past week I have been cursed at, received an overwhelming amount of hate calls, emails, hateful Facebook postings. It is interesting to me that those who accuse him (Min. Farrakhan) of hate have been so hateful this past week! Oh, the hypocrisy!” he said to audience applause.

“I have had a fundraiser for our employment resource center cancelled, financial support withdrawn, been called an ‘N’ lover, a ‘wigger’ and a traitor to White people,” he continued.

“There is a sign that hangs in this sanctuary that says ‘discipleship costs, are you willing?’” Father Pfleger said as he pointed to the back of the church.

“My sisters and brothers, imams, rabbis, prophetic preachers, civil rights leaders and icons have stood in this pulpit to speak to us, to challenge us, to call us to live the faith we say we profess. That has been our history and that will be our future as long as I am the pastor of this church!”