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Former Obama pastor says attacks on him are on US black church


The Rev. Jeremiah Wright, who has been at the centre of controversy over sermons he has preached at the church attended by US presidential hopeful Barack Obama, has suggested the furore about his views is an attack on the US black religious tradition.

"This is not an attack on Jeremiah Wright. It has nothing to do with Senator Obama," Wright said on 28 April at the National Press Club in Washington DC. "It is an attack on the black church launched by people who know nothing about the African-American religious tradition."

Wright, a black church minister, has been in the limelight for more than a month after portions of his sermons, which included critical, often harsh, references to US foreign and domestic policies, began appearing on the Internet and in US news programmes.

In one excerpt, Wright is seen asking church members to sing "God damn America", and in another he refers to the terrorist attacks in the United States of 11 September 2001 as the "chickens coming home to roost".

Wright had not spoken publicly about the controversy until his appearance at the press club and an earlier one on the Public Broadcasting Service, a US public television and radio network, on 25 April.

Asked at the press club about his remarks following the 11 September attacks, Wright said, "You cannot do terrorism on other people and expect it never to come back on you. Those are biblical principles, not Jeremiah Wright bombastic, divisive principles."

Obama has distanced himself from a number of Wright’s statements. And on 28 April, he repeated his distancing from Wright, saying, "He [Wright] does not speak for me. He does not speak for the campaign. He may make statements in the future that don’t reflect my values or concerns."

Wright is the retiring minister of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, of which Obama has been a member for two decades.

Earlier in April the executive council of the 1.2-million-member United Church of Christ said it stood behind Trinity church and Wright’s ministry at the church. "We stand in solidarity with and support of the local congregations of the United Church of Christ as they live out their charge to be prophetic witnesses to church, community and society," it said.

The Chicago Sun-Times wrote in an editorial commentary on 29 April, "Wright is doing himself little good, and doing Obama a good deal of harm, by repeating some of his more offensive views ("Chickens came home to roost" on 9/11) and by defining criticism of him as an assault on the entire black church."

Citing Wright’s quote, "As I’ve said, this is not an attack on Jeremiah Wright … It has nothing to do with Senator Obama," the paper said, "With all respect, this is all about Obama. And only Obama. He’s the man running for president."

(c) Ecumenical News International