Two prominent Black Washington, D.C. pastors said they are done “presiding over funerals for parishioners who died of heart disease, diabetes and stroke,” reports The Washington Post.

William Lamar, the senior pastor at D.C.’s historic Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church, joined another area pastor and public health group the Praxis Project in filing a lawsuit Thursday against Coca-Cola and the American Beverage Association, claiming they “knowingly deceived customers about the health risks of sugar-sweetened beverages — at enormous cost to their communities,” writes the news outlet.

The suit, filed in D.C. Superior Court, says sugary beverages have led to deaths related to stroke, diabetes and heart disease in communities of color, the report says.

But Coca-Cola issued a statement dismissing the pastors’ allegations and the merits of an earlier lawsuit filed in California, which lawyers say was withdrawn and refiled with the new plaintiffs.

The allegations here are likewise legally and factually meritless, and we will vigorously defend against them,” the statement reads, according to The Post. “The Coca-Cola Company understands that we have a role to play in helping people reduce their sugar consumption.”

Plaintiffs are seeking an injunction to stop Coke and the ABA from engaging in the “unfair and deceptive” marketing of sugary drinks, according to the Center For Science in the Public Interest.

Lamar and Delman Coates, the pastor at Maryland’s Mount Ennon Baptist Church who is also a plaintiff in the suit, claim soda marketing, which more people of color are exposed to than other groups, has made it harder for them to protect the well-being of their predominantly Black parishioners.

There’s a great deal of misinformation in our communities, and I think that’s largely a function of these deceptive marketing campaigns,” Coates tells the Post.

The lawsuit breaks from a tradition among African-American and Latino community groups who have supported Big Soda for years in policy fights across the country, notes the news outlet. These communities drink more soda, the Post reports, despite overwhelming evidence that the harmful effects of consuming sugary beverages play a role in many diseases being far higher among people of color than among Whites.

The suit argues there is a well-established link between soda consumption and obesity, but the exact mechanism of that link is not well understood, the report says.

SOURCE: The Washington PostCenter For Science in the Public Interest

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