Obama Quits Chicago Church

Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama resigned his membership from Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago on Saturday. He had been a member there for 20 years.

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GUY RAZ, host:

Barack Obama has resigned his membership in the Trinity Memorial Church in Chicago after a second embarrassing incident with a minister in the church. Obama had attended the church over the past 20 years. Joining us to discuss that development is NPR's Don Gonyea. Don, hello.

DON GONYEA: Hey, Guy.

RAZ: So this is the church of the Reverend Jeremiah Wright. His sermons caused so much trouble for Senator Obama up to now, of course.

GONYEA: Exactly. It's United Church of Christ. It's in Chicago. It was - he's the now retired Reverend Jeremiah Wright. But the problems with the affiliation with his church continue for Senator Obama, and the latest thing being a videotape that emerged this past week of a recent sermon, just a week ago. It was a guest sermon by a Catholic priest, Father Michael Flager, who is a white Catholic priest in Chicago, but who delivered a very racially-charged sermon in support of Barack Obama. But in it, he really, in very theatrical style, mocked Hillary Clinton. And it was speech that Barack Obama condemned this past week. And now we find out that he's been mulling the notion of actually leaving the church, a church he's been a member of for 20 years. And he has submitted a formal letter of resignation, withdrawing from the church today.

RAZ: Don, with all of this out there so long, why tonight?

GONYEA: Well, you know, I think it is just a question of it finally kind of, you know, dawning on them that the affiliation is something that has to stop here. And clearly, you know, this is a church that he has defended. We heard his speech on race back in April, where he talked about how important the church was, you know, how he has, you know, then - and since, in even more stronger language, denounced some of the statements that we have heard from Reverend Jeremiah Wright. But it is a community that Obama, Senator Obama has talked about how much good it has done helping the poor, and that he has been proud to be a member of. He has also said that he was not present when any of these inflammatory things that have really been circulating around the Internet and elsewhere were said. So he has, you know, been deliberating this for a few days, we're told by the campaign this afternoon. And, you know, they decided to send the letter today, perhaps on the eve of Sunday morning service there tomorrow.

RAZ: And, Don, briefly, are you - are we expecting to hear from the campaign on this?

GONYEA: Yes. We are going to hear formally, you know, have some of these questions answered by Barack Obama, who is campaigning in South Dakota today in advance of that primary there next Tuesday.

RAZ: Thank you, Don.

GONYEA: All right.

RAZ: NPR's Don Gonyea, speaking with us on the line.

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