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Pastor Criticized For Plan to Hold a ‘Slave Auction’

March 4, 1996

SAN ANTONIO (AP) _ After criticism from black leaders and others, a conservative TV evangelist apologized Monday for inviting his parishioners to participate in a ``slave auction″ to raise money for high school students.

``We certainly did not intend to offend anyone and apologize to anyone offended,″ said the Rev. John Hagee of Cornerstone Church, a nondenominational church known nationally through Hagee’s television ministry. His local congregation numbers more than 5,000.

Hagee, who is white, refused interviews with news reporters but appeared on a KTSA-AM radio talk show to talk about the uproar that began Friday with the publication of a story in his church newsletter.

Hagee wrote that ``slavery in America is returning to Cornerstone″ on March 31. He explained that each senior at the private Cornerstone High School would be auctioned off in front of the congregation to raise money for a senior class trip.

The students would be expected to work at the home or business of the highest bidder. ``Make plans to come and go home with a slave,″ Hagee wrote.

Over the weekend, black leaders and others criticized the plan.

``I think anyone should be incensed and outraged by it, and especially people of African-American descent should be outraged,″ said attorney Cornelius Cox, who is black.

``Slavery was one of the worst atrocities ever in this country. Is that something to make fun of? Something to mock?″ Cox said.

On the radio program, Hagee said such auctions had been used in school fund-raisers for generations but that he will rename the event a ``student auction.″

``I believe that name will pass and be politically correct, sterile enough,″ Hagee said.

Ethel Minor, president of the San Antonio branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, also criticized the plan, and said she had received calls from whites who were upset.

``These are high school seniors,″ she said. ``You don’t want anyone to call you a slave.″

Cox and Minor said Hagee’s appearance on the radio show was a step in the right direction but they wanted him to apologize to a larger newspaper or television audience.

Hagee said the news media had twisted his words.

``There is not one racial bone in my body,″ Hagee said. ``I was trying to help the high school seniors raise money for their senior trip.″

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