Despite Campaign Claim, Obama Told Paper He Attended Trinity Church ‘Every Week’
November 12, 2008 - 8:00 PMPresident-elect Barack Obama said in 2004 – while he was a state legislator running for a U.S. Senate seat – that he attended services at Trinity United Church of Christ every week.
This is in contrast to what Obama, as a presidential candidate, said this year after controversial anti-American remarks by the Rev. Jeremiah Wright surfaced. Obama then told news outlets that he did not attend the church frequently and was not aware of Wright’s comments.
The comments from Obama about his church attendance appeared in the transcript of an interview posted Tuesday on the religious news Web site Beliefnet.com. The interview was conducted on March 27, 2004 by Chicago Sun-Times religion writer Cathleen Falsani for a story on Obama’s faith, but the interview was not released in its entirety until now.
“One of the churches that I became involved in was Trinity United Church of Christ,” Obama said in the interview. “And the pastor there, Jeremiah Wright, became a good friend. So I joined that church and committed myself to Christ in that church.”
Obama began attending the church in 1988 and formally joined Trinity in 1992. Falsani asked, “Do you still attend Trinity?”
Obama answered, “Yep. Every week. 11 o’clock service. Ever been there? Good service.
I actually wrote a book called ‘Dreams from My Father,’ it’s kind of a meditation on race. There's a whole chapter on the church in that, and my first visits to Trinity.”
That is in direct contradiction to what he has said throughout this campaign year.
After the controversy over Wright and Trinity United erupted, Obama gave an interview to the Fox News Channel that aired on March 17. One of the questions that reporter Major Garrett asked was, “As a member in good standing, were you a regular attendee of Sunday services?”
Obama answered: “You know, I won't say that I was a perfect attendee. I was regular in spurts, because there was times when, for example, our child had just been born, our first child. And so we didn't go as regularly then.”
In a July 21, 2008 Newsweek article, Obama explained that he stopped going to church as often after he and wife Michelle had children.
“As young marrieds, Barack and Michelle (who also didn't go to church regularly as a child) went to church fairly often—two or three times a month. But after their first child, Malia, was born, they found making the effort more difficult. ‘I don't know if you've had the experience of taking young, squirming children to church, but it's not easy,’ he says.
“‘Trinity was always packed, and so you had to get there early. And if you went to the morning service, you were looking at—it just was difficult. So that would cut back on our involvement.’
“After he began his run for the U.S. Senate, he says, the family sometimes didn't go to Trinity for months at a time. The girls have not attended Sunday school.”
The Wright controversy threatened to be a stumbling block in Obama’s quest for the Democratic presidential nomination. On March 14, he released a statement on the matter that said he was not in church when Wright made his inflammatory statements about the United States and 9/11.
“The statements that Rev. Wright made that are the cause of this controversy were not statements I personally heard him preach while I sat in the pews of Trinity or heard him utter in private conversation,” Obama said in his statement. “When these statements first came to my attention, it was at the beginning of my presidential campaign.
“I made it clear at the time that I strongly condemned his comments. But because Rev. Wright was on the verge of retirement, and because of my strong links to the Trinity faith community, where I married my wife and where my daughters were baptized, I did not think it appropriate to leave the church,” Obama added.
Obama’s first interviews on the matter came in March when video clips of Wright’s sermons were being aired. The clips showed the pastor refer to America as, “the U.S. of K.K.K. A.”
In another sermon Wright said, “No, no, no. Not God bless America. God d--- America. It’s in the Bible for killing innocent people. God d-- America for treating us citizens as less than human. God d--- America as long as she tries to act like she is God and she is supreme.”
A clip of a sermon Wright delivered after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks shows him saying, “We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans, and now we are indignant because the stuff we have done overseas is now brought to our own front yards. America’s chickens are coming home to roost.”
Also in the Sun-Times interview posted on BeliefNet.com, Obama speaks of another controversial clergyman when Falsani asked him, “Do you have people in your life that you look to for guidance?”
Obama answered: “Well, my pastor [Jeremiah Wright] is certainly someone who I have an enormous amount of respect for. I have a number of friends who are ministers. Reverend (James) Meeks is a close friend and colleague of mine in the state Senate. Father Michael Pfleger is a dear friend, and somebody I interact with closely.”
Pfleger, a white Catholic priest, made news earlier this year when he delivered a sermon at Trinity mocking Obama’s Democratic primary opponent Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York.
Pfleger told the Trinity congregation that Clinton apparently was thinking, “‘I’m Bill’s wife. I’m white and this is mine.’ … And then out of nowhere, ‘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. … She wasn’t the only one crying. There was a whole lot of white people crying,” Pfleger added.