Councilwoman defends remarks

'It's all politics,' the councilwoman said.
FARRELL, Pa. -- The public debate over some comments attributed to Councilwoman Helen Marenchin on primary election night seems to have subsided.
Marenchin, in speaking publicly on the May 15 defeat of incumbent Councilman Peter Stephanopoulos by the Rev. Jeannette Wright Hooks, accused the black churches in the city of illegally preaching politics from the pulpit, telling people whom to vote for.
Stephanopoulos is white; the Rev. Ms. Wright Hooks is black.
There were numerous calls in the form of letters to the editor of The Herald newspaper from members of the black community asking Marenchin for a public apology and/or her resignation from council.
Council met Tuesday for its first public session since the election, but only one person in the audience, Michelle Wilder-Sparrow of Negley Street, asked that Marenchin explain herself.
The whole issue "was blown out of proportion," Marenchin replied.
Lighten up: She suggested everyone "lighten up" and look at the issue as politics. "It's all politics," she said.
Marenchin said it was her opinion that the separation of church and state should apply to elections and to all churches, not just black churches, adding she was exercising her right to freedom of speech.
"I have always fought for what is right," she said, adding that sometimes things are said in the heat of an election that might otherwise not be said.
Later in the meeting, she offered her public congratulations to Ms. Wright Hooks, saying it may be time for some new blood on council.
"I'm sure we'll work fine together," she said.
Other council members offered the same sentiments, and Ms. Wright Hooks thanked them for their comments, promising, "I'm here for the duration."

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