- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 1, 2008

ABERDEEN, S.D. (AP) — Sen. Barack Obama yesterday said he has resigned his 20-year membership in the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago “with some sadness” in the aftermath of the latest round of racially inflammatory remarks at the church.

“This is not a decision I come to lightly … and it is one I make with some sadness,” Mr. Obama said at a news conference after campaign officials released a letter of resignation he sent to the church Friday.

“I’m not denouncing the church, and I’m not interested in people who want me to denounce the church,” he said, adding that the new pastor at Trinity and “the church have been suffering from the attention my campaign has focused on them.”

Mr. Obama said he and his wife have been discussing the issue since an appearance last month by the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. at the National Press Club, which reignited the furor over remarks Mr. Obama’s longtime spiritual adviser had made in various sermons at the church.

“I suspect we’ll find another church home for our family,” Mr. Obama said.

“It’s clear that now that I’m a candidate for president, every time something is said in the church by anyone associated with Trinity, including guest pastors, the remarks will imputed to me even if they totally conflict with my long-held views, statements and principles,” he said. “This was a pretty personal decision, and I was not trying to make political theater out of it.”

Comments by Mr. Wright have inflamed racial tensions and posed an unwanted problem for Mr. Obama, front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, as he seeks to wrap up the nomination.

More recently, racially charged remarks from the same pulpit by a Catholic priest, the Rev. Michael Pfleger, have brought the church back into the national spotlight. Father Pfleger late last month mocked Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton as a racist crying over Mr. Obama’s success as a rebuke to her “white privilege,” yelling at the top of his lungs that Mrs. Clinton was aghast at “a black man stealing my show.”

Mr. Obama has condemned comments by both ministers, but the furor has persisted.

For months, Mr. Obama has been hamstrung by the rhetoric of Mr. Wright, whose sermons became fixtures on the Internet and cable news networks - blaming the U.S. for the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, saying AIDS was invented by the U.S. government as an anti-black genocide weapon and calling for blacks not to sing “God Bless America,” but instead call on Him to smite the country.

Initially, Mr. Obama said he disagreed with Mr. Wright but portrayed him as a family member he couldn’t disown. The preacher had officiated at Mr. Obama’s wedding and been his spiritual mentor for some 20 years.

But six weeks after Mr. Obama gave a speech in Philadelphia in which he compared Mr. Wright’s jeremiads with his white grandmother’s fear of black crime, Mr. Wright spoke in Washington and stood by earlier remarks, suggesting that Mr. Obama was acting like a politician by putting his pastor at arm’s length while privately agreeing with him.

After that, Mr. Obama denounced Mr. Wright’s comments as “divisive and destructive.”

Mr. Obama has maintained he had not heard the furor-inducing sermons. But in the videos of the Wright and Pfleger sermons, the congregation at Trinity is cheering raucously, especially at the most racially charged remarks, rather than acting shocked or surprised.

The Illinois senator’s decision broke late yesterday, while most of the political attention was focused on the Democratic National Committee’s struggle to seat delegates from Florida and Michigan.

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