ABERDEEN, S.D., May 31 (Reuters) - Democratic presidential
front-runner Barack Obama has resigned from Trinity United
Church of Christ, his spokesman said on Saturday, further
distancing himself from a source of controversy as he gears up
for the general election.
Controversial sermons at Obama's longtime church in Chicago
have plagued the Illinois senator, who is close to clinching
the Democratic nomination to run against Republican John McCain
in the November election.
Obama's spokesman, Robert Gibbs, gave no details, but said
Obama had sent a letter resigning from the church he has
attended for 16 years. Obama, who would be the first black U.S.
president, was expected to make some comments on his decision
later in the day, Gibbs said.
Last month, Obama cut ties with his former pastor, Jeremiah
Wright, who angered many with anti-American and racially
Just as controversy over Wright had died down, a Roman
Catholic priest mocked Obama's rival Hillary Clinton during a
guest appearance at Trinity United.
In his sermon the priest, Michael Pfleger, screamed and
imitated Clinton and accused her of espousing "white
entitlement." Pfleger later apologized for his comments and was
condemned by Obama and the archbishop of Chicago.
The decision to quit the church appeared to be a sign that
Obama wants to put the issue behind him ahead of the November
Obama has attended Trinity United since 1992 and Wright
presided over Obama's marriage and baptized his two daughters.
In an effort to quell the controversy over Wright, Obama
gave a widely praised speech in March calling for racial
healing and offering a nuanced view of Wright, denouncing the
pastor's remarks but declining to disown him.
But then Wright made a series of public appearances and
stood by his inflammatory comments. He has blamed the U.S.
government for the spread of the AIDS virus, declared "God damn
America" and blasted the country's history of racism.
Obama was reportedly furious and finally cut ties with
Wright last month. He condemned the minister's comments as
"outrageous" and "appalling."
Wright's comments posed problems for Obama because they
contradicted one of his campaign's central messages -- that he
can transcend past divisions such as those involving race.
Obama, the son of a white woman from Kansas and a black man
from Kenya, has attracted strong support in some heavily white
states such including Wyoming, Iowa and Wisconsin.
Political analysts questioned whether Obama's links to
Wright might hurt him in the general election.