Obama quits church amid controversy over sermons

By Leonard Doyle
Sunday 23 October 2011 07:58

It being Sunday, Barack Obama might have been kneeling in the pews of Trinity United Church in Chicago yesterday, the black congregation swelling with pride at the fact that he is on the cusp of becoming the Democratic presidential nominee. Instead, Mr Obama had turned his back on the church where he has worshipped for two decades.

He resigned his membership this weekend, saying that he did not want his "church experience to be a political circus".

Mr Obama had his political awakening at the church. He "found Jesus Christ" there, got married and had his children baptised there. But this year Trinity United has become a political albatross, particularly given the incendiary sermons of its founder Jeremiah Wright, with Mr Obama's association turning into a vote-loser with working-class whites.

Pastor Wright's sermons were seen as distinctly unpatriotic. Immediately after September 11, he declared that the attacks were the damnation of America for the genocide of American Indians and slavery. The clip was endlessly looped on US television channels. The Illinois senator denounced his pastor, while trying to maintain links with the church. But that trust received another knock last week when the Rev Michael Pfleger – another friend and a radical white Catholic priest – gave a guest sermon at Trinity United in which he mocked Hillary Clinton for what he said was the sense of white entitlement to the nomination. "I really believe that she just always thought this is mine," he said, "I'm Bill's wife, I'm white and this is mine."

Mr Obama said that he had made his decision with sadness. He shrugged off suggestions the resignation was politically motivated, saying the media attention meant the congregation could no longer worship in peace.

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