Senior Correspondent

Obama rebounds after racial controversy (FCN, 04-03-2008)

WASHINGTON ( – Despite some broad ecumenical support developing nationally for the ministry of Sen. Barack Obama’s former pastor–the Rev. Jeremiah Wright–Democratic presidential contender Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) reiterated her criticism of Rev. Wright to a group of Black reporters March 27.

“He would not have been my pastor. You don’t choose your family, but you choose what church you want to attend,” Sen. Clinton said in her opening remarks to members of The Trotter Group of African American Columnists and Commentators.


“Some have suggested that that was some, you know, attempt on my part to in some way to attack Sen. Obama. And again, I want to take this opportunity to set the record straight,” she explained.

“I was asked a direct question about what I would do if Rev. Wright were my pastor, and I gave an honest answer. I would not be a member of Rev. Wright’s church. And that position is based on what’s in my heart.”

Just days before however, the Rev. Wright was given a strong vote of confidence by the pastor of the church attended by Bill and Hillary Clinton during their days in the White House.

“The Rev. Jeremiah Wright is an outstanding church leader whom I have heard speak a number of times,” the Rev. Dean Snyder, senior minister at Washington’s Foundry United Methodist Church said, in a statement posted on the church website.

“He has served for decades as a profound voice for justice and inclusion in our society. He has been a vocal critic of the racism, sexism and homophobia, which still tarnish the American dream and Whites in this country have much to learn from listening to his sermons,” the Rev. Snyder said.

Sen. Clinton however, would not yield in her criticism when asked by The Final Call if she regrets having belonged to the Rev. Snyder’s church. “Let me set the record straight. Number one, I have not attended or even visited Foundry Church since 2001. I don’t know Rev. Snyder, but I certainly respect his right to express his opinion.”

“Let’s put this into the context in which it is occurring. A lot of people are sitting around their kitchen tables and talking to their family and friends–people in every community in America, cutting across every racial and ethnic and religious category–about whether they would have stayed in a church with Rev. Wright as pastor. I was asked directly; I answered for myself. Others may disagree with me–that is what is great about America. I expressed my personal opinion,” she said.

The Rev. Snyder is one clergyman who strongly disagrees with Sen. Clinton.

“To evaluate his dynamic ministry on the basis of two or three sound bites does a grave injustice to Dr. Wright, the members of his congregation and the African American church, which has been the spiritual refuge of a people that has suffered from discrimination, disadvantage, and violence,” the pastor said.

The Clinton campaign insists that the Rev. Snyder became pastor of Foundry United Methodist Church in 2002, one full year after the Clintons left the White House at the end of Bill Clinton’s second term.

Sen. Clinton has been a member of the United Methodist Church since childhood, dating back to when her mother, Dorothy Rodham, taught Sunday school at First United Methodist Church in their hometown of Park Ridge, Ill., according to published reports.

Sen. Clinton also debunked the rumor that the pastor of the church she attends in New York was recently convicted of first degree sexual abuse and endangering the welfare of a child in a case involving a seven-year-old girl.

“I do not know what you are talking about. I don’t live in Oneida County; I don’t know anything about the incident or the gentleman you are referring to,” Sen. Clinton said concerning reports appearing in the Utica, N.Y. Observer-Dispatch about the conviction and sentencing of the Rev. William Procanick of the Resurrection Assembly of God Church, which is located in Clinton, N.Y.

She has not chosen a new church home in New York she told The Trotter Group, preferring instead to visit various churches throughout the state to get a chance to meet a broad cross-section of her constituents. The Clintons maintain their official membership in the First United Methodist Church in Little Rock, she said.

As to why she does not concede the nomination contest to Sen. Obama, who has won more pledged convention delegates, more popular votes, and more state primaries than she has, Sen. Clinton insisted her campaign would continue right on to the Democratic Convention this summer.

“I know that’s a question on people’s minds, and if I can even imagine taking myself out of this as one of the two remaining candidates, I would say to you what I would say as a candidate. I do not see that as a problem,” she said.

“Number one, both Sen. Obama and I have brought so many new people into this primary process. I don’t know if you saw the reports coming out of Pennsylvania, but tens of thousands of new Democrats registered. The registration number is now over 4 million. It’s unprecedented. These people obviously want their voices heard.

“This is happening in all of these remaining contests. I actually think that a contested primary between–this is obviously a self-interesting thing to say–two extraordinary candidates is going to be good for the Democratic Party. I think it’s important that we let everyone who wants to participate have the chance to do so. That’s why I feel so strongly that we can’t have the voters in Michigan or Florida disenfranchised because then they will take it out on our nominee no matter who wins,” Mrs. Clinton said.