Charging that more people die of diabetes and preventable diseases in the Black community than of gunshot wounds and violence, two area pastors have joined a lawsuit against Coca Cola for being part of the problem.

(Courtesy Photo/Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain)

The Rev. Delman Coates, pastor of Mt. Ennon Baptist Church in Clinton Md., is part of a lawsuit that the Rev. William Lamar, pastor of Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church filed in the D.C. Superior Court. The suit charges the sugar the company puts into its products is killing too many Blacks in the community.

“In the District of Columbia more people die of diabetic related illnesses than from murder, cancer, and AIDS combined,” Lamar told the AFRO.

Coates added that even with Coke’s history of philanthropy for decades in the Black community they don’t get a pass.

The Praxis Project, a nonprofit organization focused on building healthier communities, is also a party in the suit charging that despite scientifically established links between sugar drinks and obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and heart disease, the Coca-Cola Company continues to engage in deceptive practices in the marketing of its products to the Black community.

“This is about saving lives, this is not about sponsorships for a dinner,” said Coates referring to the fact that Coca-Cola has been a major sponsor of the annual Congressional Black Caucus Legislative Conference.

The lawsuit seeks an injunction under the District of Columbia’s Consumer Protection Procedures Act, to stop engaging in the deceptive marketing of sugar-sweetened drinks that can lead to obesity, Type 2 diabetes, or cardiovascular disease.

“I am the one who goes to the hospital room who presides over the planning and preparation of funerals in our congregation,” said Coates on a YouTube video produced by the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

From challenging BET’s owner over images and the portrayal of the Black Community to supporting the Maryland Marriage Equality measure, Coates, a Harvard and Yale trained pastor, has consistently embraced causes that others have shied away from. But in this battle, the question is how willing is he willing to be the David in a battle against a corporate giant like Coca-Cola?

The legal battle by the Praxis Project began in January when the group filed a 40-page lawsuit in California charging Coca-Cola and the American Beverage Association (ABA) engaged “in false and misleading marketing of sugar-sweetened beverages.”

In a response, the Coca-Cola company said, in a statement, that the lawsuit, was “legally and factually meritless” and said “we take our consumers and their health very seriously and have been on a journey to become a more credible and helpful partner in helping consumers manage their sugar consumption.”

Coates said he is in this lawsuit and the greater campaign to change mindsets in the Black community. “Everything that I have done has been for the long haul,” Coates said. “I’m looking for other pastors to raise awareness on the way we are losing lives due to false marketing because of companies like Coca-Cola. I’m hearing from pastors across the country who want to help our people practice for what we pray for.”

The Rev. Jerome Stephens, associate minister of the New Shiloh Baptist Church in Baltimore and director of community outreach for Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), said that even though he was not familiar with the lawsuit or campaign, he planned to talk with Coates because “we need to look into a number of issues plaguing our communities.”