- Associated Press - Sunday, August 29, 2010

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. | The Rev. Jeremiah Wright, President Obama’s former pastor, accused people who wrongly believe Mr. Obama is Muslim of catering to political enemies during a fiery speech Sunday in Arkansas.

In his sermon at New Millennium Church in Little Rock, Mr. Wright criticized supporters of the Iraq war and defended former state Court of Appeals Judge Wendell Griffen, the church’s pastor, for speaking out against it.

Mr. Wright’s only reference to Mr. Obama came when he compared Mr. Griffen’s opponents to those who incorrectly think Mr. Obama is Muslim. The president, whose full name is Barack Hussein Obama, is Christian.

“Go after the military mindset … and the enemy will come after you with everything,” Mr. Wright told the packed church.

“He will surround you with sycophants who will criticize you and ostracize you and put you beyond the pale of hope and say, ‘You ain’t really a Baptist,’ and say, ‘The president ain’t really a Christian, he’s a Muslim. There ain’t no American Christian with a name like Barack Hussein,’ ” he added.

A poll released this month found that nearly one in five people, or 18 percent, said they thought Mr. Obama was Muslim, up from the 11 percent in March 2009. The proportion who correctly said he was Christian was 34 percent, down from 48 percent in March of last year. The poll, conducted by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center and its affiliated Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, surveyed 3,003 people.

Mr. Obama cut ties with Mr. Wright in 2008, after some of Mr. Wright’s incendiary sermons - including one in which he said black congregants should sing “God damn America” rather than “God Bless America” - hit the Internet during the presidential election campaign.

At a National Press Club appearance in April 2008, Mr. Wright said the U.S. government planted AIDS in the black community, praised Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan and suggested that Mr. Obama was putting his pastor at arm’s length for political purposes while privately agreeing with him.

Mr. Griffen lost a re-election bid for the Arkansas Court of Appeals in 2008, after high-profile battles with a state judicial panel over the rights of judges to speak out on political issues. Mr. Griffen was elected in May to a judicial post in Pulaski County, the state’s most populous county that includes Little Rock.

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