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Lawmaker apologizes for comments in May



Published: Tue, June 26, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The councilwoman said a group of clergymen insisted a public apology was needed.

FARRELL, Pa. -- City Councilwoman Helen Marenchin apologized Monday for statements she made May 15 that some construed as racist.

"My remarks were not intentionally racist and bigoted but I realize now they were viewed as such. I was wrong," Marenchin said in a prepared statement read at the start of a city council meeting.

Marenchin, speaking publicly on election night on the defeat of incumbent Councilman Peter Stephanopoulos by the Rev. Jeannette Wright Hooks, accused the city's black churches of preaching politics from the pulpit, telling people whom to vote for.

Stephanopoulos is white; the Rev. Ms. Wright Hooks is black.

The comments resulted in numerous calls from the black community for Marenchin to apologize or resign her council seat.

Matter discussed: Marenchin addressed the issue at a May 29 council meeting, saying the matter was "blown out of proportion" and everyone should "lighten up" and look at the issue as politics.

She said at the time that it was her opinion that the separation of church and state should apply to elections and to all churches, not just those with black congregations.

Those comments didn't satisfy everyone, however.

Marenchin, in her prepared statement, said the Shenango Valley Initiative Clergy Caucus asked her to meet June 15 with them to pray and talk about her election remarks.

She said it was a fruitful meeting and she apologized to those present, but the Clergy Caucus insisted she also make a public apology, which she agreed to do.

"I formally apologize to the Clergy Caucus, the African-American community and all others who may have been offended by my words," she said, adding that she hopes her apology is accepted and the community can move on and continue to work together.




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