Aberdeen (South Dakota, USA), Jun 1: Illinois Senator and Democratic presidential frontrunner Barack Obama resigned from the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago on Saturday following the inflammatory remarks made by his longtime pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright and more recent fiery remarks by another minister at the same church.
"This is not a decision I come to lightly ... and it is one I make with some sadness," he told a news conference here after campaign officials released a letter of resignation sent to the church on 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," Obama, who was associated with the church for 20 years, said.
Obama said he and his wife have been discussing the issue since Wright's appearance at the National Press Club in Washington last month that reignited furor over remarks he had made in various sermons at the church.
"I suspect we'll find another church home for our family. 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.
Obama said he had "no idea" how the resignation would "impact my presidential campaign, but I know it's the right thing to do for the church and our family."
Obama has been hamstrung by the rhetoric of Wright, whose sermons blaming US policies for 9/11 and calls of "God damn America" for its racism became fixtures on the Internet and cable news networks.
Initially, Obama said he disagreed with Wright but portrayed him as a family member he couldn't disown. The preacher had officiated at Obama's wedding, baptized his two daughters and been his spiritual mentor for some 20 years.
But six weeks after Obama's well-received speech on race, Wright claimed at the Press Club appearance that the US government was capable of planting AIDS in the black community, praised Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan and suggested that Obama was acting like a politician by putting his pastor at arm's length while privately agreeing with him.
The next day, Obama denounced Wright's comments as "divisive and destructive."
More recently, racially charged remarks by the Reverend Michael Pfleger had kept the controversy alive and proved the latest thorn in Obama's side.
Obama made it clear he wasn't happy with the comments, in which Pfleger pretended he was Clinton crying over "a black man stealing my show" - and said he was "deeply disappointed in Father Pfleger's divisive, backward-looking rhetoric, which doesn't reflect the country I see or the desire of people across America to come together in common cause."
Pfleger, too, issued an apology, saying he was sorry if his comments offended Clinton or anyone else.