State Senate District 6 candidate Jaha Howard has apologized for the anti-gay and misogynistic views he expressed in a series of social media posts from 2011 to 2014. The apology came in a statement posted to his campaign Facebook page in response to Georgia Voice’s story early Thursday afternoon that uncovered the controversial Facebook posts. However, in a follow-up dialogue with people in the comments section, he doubled down on some of the views, confirming that he believes being gay is a sin, that he doesn’t know whether being gay is a choice and that women shouldn’t be in the ministry.
In the initial posts in question, Howard said that he believes that “women should only teach other women” and wonders if there is a “a homosexual agenda in public education” and if the Girl Scouts “are being used to push a [sic] pro-abortion and pro-homosexuality positions.” Howard made similar comments in over 10 different Facebook posts.
“Today I was embarrassed and disappointed to read some of my own insensitive social media posts from years ago,” Howard wrote on Facebook late Thursday afternoon. “Unintentionally, I greatly offended many of the same people I’m working hard to represent and defend in the State Senate. I’m deeply sorry.”
He hinted at a change in views, saying, “Over the years, I’m grateful to have gained valuable perspective from hundreds of conversations with some amazing people like you. Thank you for sharing your life experiences with me. Thank you for being real and vulnerable as I’ve moved forward on my own journey of engaging politics as a Christian. Today, I am a better man because of you.”
Howard then pledged to support LGBT and women’s rights, saying, “Conversations with people I know and love have helped me be very clear in my political positions. I believe in preserving and strengthening equal rights for all people, especially our LGBTQ friends. I also firmly believe in protecting a woman’s autonomy over her own body.”
He ended the statement by including a link to Georgia Voice’s Facebook post about the initial story.
However, Howard appeared to still support some of the same views he expressed after being asked this by a commenter:
Jaha – please can you answer some of these questions? 1) Do you still believe being gay is a choice? 2) Is being a gay a sin? 3) Do you believe that women should only teach women? 4) Do you believe in gay adoption? 5) What are your views on evolution? Finally, have you changed your views on all the above since your initial FB comments?
Howard responded with the following:
1. I don’t know.
2. I believe the Bible teaches that homosexuality, along with a myriad of other things, are contrary to His will. The Bible also teaches that all, including me, have fallen short of the standard. I still stand firm in defending the LGBTQ community from discrimination.
3. Specially in a church setting, I believe the Bible teaches that women teach women in a church setting.
4. I support gay adoption.
5. I believe evolution is the best natural explanation of how we got here. I believe in the power of God, therefore I support a supernatural explanation over a natural explanation.
Since the posts years ago, I have grown and developed how I would legislate as a representative. I will not push my personal views on anyone else.
The initial Facebook posts from 2011 to 2014 had been floating around political circles all week, leading Howard’s campaign manager to resign on Tuesday, and for queer state Rep. Park Cannon (D-Atlanta) to refute Howard’s claims that she endorsed him. The candidate sent out an email to supporters Monday morning listing Cannon’s name among those endorsing him, then resent a revised email later that day with her name notably absent.
Howard was the Democratic candidate for the Senate District 6 seat in a race against Republican incumbent state Sen. Hunter Hill last year and lost by 3.8 points. The seat became vacant following Hill’s resignation to run for Georgia governor and will be decided on Nov. 7.
The Democrats joining Howard in the race are Jen Jordan and Taos Wynn. The Republican candidates are Charlie Fiveash, Kathy Eichenblatt, Leah Aldridge, Leo Smith and Matt Bentley. Jordan has gained the endorsements of Georgia Equality, Georgia Stonewall Democrats and several progressive organizations. The district covers parts of Northwest Atlanta, Sandy Springs, Marietta, Smyrna and Vinings.
The full text of today’s statement from Howard is below:
Today I was embarrassed and disappointed to read some of my own insensitive social media posts from years ago. Unintentionally, I greatly offended many of the same people I’m working hard to represent and defend in the State Senate. I’m deeply sorry.
For context, I often engaged in very raw and uncomfortable discussions on social media about biblical teaching on issues like worship, women in ministry, divorce, homosexuality and abortion. Many African Americans of faith are very familiar with these debates, and much of the time they take place with friends and family around the kitchen table. I chose to very publicly wrestled with scripture and its application in everyday life.
Over the years, I’m grateful to have gained valuable perspective from hundreds of conversations with some amazing people like you. Thank you for sharing your life experiences with me. Thank you for being real and vulnerable as I’ve moved forward on my own journey of engaging politics as a Christian. Today, I am a better man because of you.
Conversations with people I know and love have helped me be very clear in my political positions. I believe in preserving and strengthening equal rights for all people, especially our LGBTQ friends. I also firmly believe in protecting a woman’s autonomy over her own body.
This campaign is community-driven and our community consists of a wide variety of backgrounds and beliefs. I hope to continue to have real conversations with you and learn from your perspective. Through open dialogue and sincere engagement, I know that we will show our state how to come together when it matters most.
Our Georgia needs your voice – I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you.
UPDATE: Michael Smith, spokesperson for the Democratic Party of Georgia, told Georgia Voice the following in reaction to the Jaha Howard issue: “One of the Democratic Party’s core principles is the belief that we are all free when we are all equal. We are a big tent party, but we will suffer no clowns.”