- The Washington Times - Friday, March 14, 2008

The Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., a mentor and friend to Sen. Barack Obama for 20 years, in a recent sermon shouted: “God damn America” for its history of slavery, racism and oppression against its black citizens.

Mr. Wright — who baptized Mr. Obama at the Trinity United Church of Christ, presided over his wedding there and inspired him in his career as a community activist and a politician — has been a lightning rod for the campaign from the very beginning.

When Mr. Obama announced his candidacy for president, Mr. Wright, who is also a member of Mr. Obama’s National African American Religious Leadership Committee, was asked not to appear because of his “black power” social views, which many have criticized as separatist, forcing Mr. Obama to distance himself from his home pastor.

He has given many fiery sermons in his career and has called Nation of Islam head Louis Farrakhan his friend, but it is his final sermon as head pastor, given Feb. 10, that has called his relationship with Mr. Obama and his views into question again.

“Hillary was not a black boy raised in a single-parent home. Barack was. Barack knows what it means to be a black man living in a country and a culture that is controlled by rich white people,” Mr. Wright said.

“Hillary can never know that. Hillary ain’t never been called a n—-er.”

Mr. Wright went on to detail all the ways in which Hillary is not black enough to represent black Americans, and he also attempted to paint Mr. Obama as a Jesus figure, saying his life parallels that of Christ.

“Jesus was a poor black man who lived in a country and who lived in a culture that was controlled by rich white people. The Romans were rich. The Romans were Italians, which means they were Europeans, which means they were white, and they controlled everything in Jesus’ country.”

“Hillary ain’t never had her own people say she wasn’t white enough. Jesus had his own people siding with the enemy. That’s why I love Jesus, y’all. He never let their hatred dampen his hope.”

Mr. Wright also chastised blacks who have been critical of Mr. Obama, saying that he was “sick” of them and that “they just don’t get it.”

Tommy Vietor, a spokesman for the Obama campaign, said the candidate “has said before that he profoundly disagrees with some of the statements and positions of Reverend Wright, who has preached his last sermon as pastor at the church. Senator Obama deplores divisive statements whether they come from his supporters, the supporters of his opponent, talk radio, or anywhere else.”

The campaigns of Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat, and John McCain, Arizona Republican, did not respond to calls seeking comment.

Although Mr. Wright has publicly supported Mr. Obama and associated himself with the campaign, this sermon went further because it was given from the pulpit of his church.

The sermon could be viewed as political advocacy speech for a particular candidate, which would violate the tax laws governing religious groups and put Mr. Wright’s church’s in jeopardy of losing its “501(c)3” tax-exempt status.

Although the IRS would not say whether the tax-exempt status of Trinity United Church of Christ is being investigated, it has acknowledged an investigation of the denomination as a whole.

Marsha Ramirez, IRS director of Exempt Organizations Examinations, sent a letter to the denomination’s headquarters in Cleveland explaining the IRS inquiry.

“Our concerns are based on articles posted on several Web sites including the church’s which state the United States Presidential Candidate Senator Barack Obama addressed nearly 10,000 church members gathered at the United Church of Christ’s biennial General Synod at the Hartford Civic Center, on June 23, 2007. In addition, 40 Obama volunteers staffed campaign tables outside the center to promote his campaign.”

The examination is ongoing, but such examinations almost never result in revocation of a tax-exempt group’s status. Only two have occurred in 57 years, and recent examinations against civil rights groups who arguably went further than Mr. Wright in their political speech have concluded without penalty.

The IRS examined the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s (NAACP) exempt status for two years beginning in 2004. Former Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican, and others complained that NAACP Chairman Julian Bond’s keynote speech at the group’s annual convention criticized President Bush and advocated for the election of his opponent, Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat.

The inquiry ended in September 2006 with no sanctions leveled against the NAACP.



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