On the brink of the Democratic presidential nomination, Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) has left his controversial congregation, Trinity United Church of Christ, in Chicago, campaign spokesman Bill Burton said Saturday.
Inflammatory sermons by the church’s longtime pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr., forced Obama to initially defend – then denounce – his former spiritual mentor.
Then this week, Obama had to distance himself from another minister preaching at Trinity, the Rev. Michael Pfleger, who last Sunday made comments that seemed to accuse Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) of acting “entitled” because she is white.
The decision, which will momentarily provoke heavy coverage of an issue the campaign would love to forget, represents an effort by Obama to put a nagging impediment behind him as he heads into head-to-head combat with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).
Comments by Wright, repeatedly replayed on television, were criticized as anti-American by conservatives and hurt Obama with some of the disaffected Republicans who had been attracted by his historic candidacy.
Obama could clinch the nomination as soon as Tuesday.
Obama resigned this week, campaign officials said. The move completes Obama’s slow walk away from a church that began receiving huge scrutiny late in the campaign’s primary season.
Obama has said he was not present for the most controversial sermons, and said he did not know about them until he began running for president.
The church is one of the linchpins of Obama’s adult life. Wright married Obama and his wife, Michelle Obama, and baptized their two daughters. And Obama has written that he became a Christian through Wright.
The news initially emerged on the blog of a black Chicago journalist, Monroe Anderson, who wrote that he feared Obama was caving to the right: “Obama knows what Trinity is about. I’ve only set foot in the church twice in my life and I know what it’s about. It’s nothing like it’s being portrayed in the national media. Nor is Rev. Wright."