Current Affairs

More church troubles for Obama campaign

Jonas Oliver June 2, 2008
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Barack Obama’s choice of church and spiritual counsel is once again causing problems for his campaign.

Video of Father Michael Pfleger, a liberal Chicago priest and longtime friend of Barack Obama, delivering an explosive, racially charged sermon at the church where the Democratic frontrunner has been a member for over two decades, has been widely circulated across the web and discussed in the blogosphere.

It’s yet another pastor problem for the Illinois Senator who appears to be limping toward the finish line for the Democratic Presidential nomination.

In the mostly political sermon from the pulpit of Trinity United Church last Sunday, Pfleger mocks Hillary Clinton’s tears in New Hampshire and takes on the joint issues of what he describes as “white entitlement” and “white supremacy” in America, to the wild applause and apparent jubilation of Trinity’s worshippers.

At one point during the sermon, Pfleger addresses Senator Obama’s current pastor, Rev. Otis Moss, directly saying:

“Rev. Moss, when Hillary was crying, and people said that was put on, I really don’t believe it was put on.

“I really believe that she just always thought, ‘This is mine! I’m Bill’s wife, I’m white, and this is mine! I just gotta get up and step into the plate.’

“And then out of nowhere came, ‘Hey, I’m Barack Obama,’ and she said, ‘Oh, damn! Where did you come from? I’m white! I’m entitled! There’s a black man stealing my show!'”

Pfleger then pretended to wipe tears away from his face as the crowd cheered on his incendiary antics.

Contrary to his hesitation to denounce Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s controversial comments from the pulpit, Obama was quick to condemn Pfleger’s sermon in a statement, saying:

“As I have travelled this country, I’ve been impressed not by what divides us, but by all that that unites us.

“That is why I am deeply disappointed in Father Pfleger’s divisive, backward-looking rhetoric, which doesn’t reflect the country I see or the desire of people across America to come together in common cause.”

Pfleger also issued an apology for his comments in a separate statement.

“I regret the words I chose on Sunday. These words are inconsistent with Senator Obama’s life and message, and I am deeply sorry if they offended Senator Clinton or anyone else who saw them,” Pfleger said.

Though not as close a friend to the Democratic Presidential contender as was Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Obama’s relationship with Pfleger, who until recently had a testimonial prominently posted among those of other faith leaders on the Barack Obama campaign site, is nonetheless significant.

Pfleger has known Obama since his days as a community activist, given money to his campaign, hosted an interfaith forum for the Obama campaign and served as a member of the Catholics for Obama subcommittee.
According to the Chicago Tribune, Pfleger’s St. Sabina’s Catholic Church on the South Side of Chicago has also been the recipient of at least $225,000 (£114,500) that was guided its way by Obama himself during his term as an Illinois state legislator.

Equally troubling for Barack Obama, who was only last week trying to shore up support among Jewish voters in Florida, is Pleger’s connection to Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, whom the Catholic priest has invited to speak at his church and whose divisive message he has publicly championed in much the same way that Rev. Jeremiah Wright did.

As for his rival’s response to the controversy, the Clinton campaign’s communications director, Howard Wolfson, said that Pleger’s comments have no place in the campaign or in the pulpit.

“We are disappointed that Senator Obama didn’t specifically reject Father Pfleger’s despicable comments about Senator Clinton and assume he will do so,” Wolfson said.

© 2008; All Rights Reserved

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