Barack Obama, after having to distance himself from his own pastor, had to distance himself from a guest speaker as well, Father Michael Pfleger. But he was more that just a guest.

Father Michael Pfleger, a fiery liberal social activist and a white reverend at an African-American church — St. Sabina’s Catholic Church on the South Side of Chicago — is a longtime friend and associate of Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, having known him since the presidential hopeful was a community activist. In September, the Obama campaign brought Pfleger to Iowa to host one of several interfaith forums for the campaign.

Their relationship spans decades. Pfleger has given money to Obama’s campaigns and Obama as a state legislator directed at least $225,000 towards social programs at St. Sabina’s, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Pfleger, as you probably know, mocked Hillary Clinton’s crying, and suggested that her continued fight in the primary was because of racism. Of course, someone could turn that around and say that Obama’s continued fight was because of sexism. Neither is accurate, I imagine, but the accusation was outrageous enough that Obama had to distance himself from yet another speaker at his church.

In addition to the verbal distancing, Father Pfleger became the next person to be scrubbed from Obama’s “Faith Testimonials” web page, following Jeremiah Wright. (Seems that web page is a precarious place to be featured. They’re disappearing faster than political dissidents in the old Soviet Union.)

Which then led him to the, no doubt difficult, decision to leave the church after over 20 years. But even as he did so, he was hoping more people weren’t paying attention to his connection to Pfleger.

“I suspect we’ll find another church home for our family,” Obama said.

“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.

“I have no idea how it will impact my presidential campaign but I know it was the right thing to do for me and my family,” he said.

“This was a pretty personal decision and I was not trying to make political theater out of it,” he added.

His association with Father Pfleger, as noted, goes back far, far longer than the Father’s recent appearance at Trinity. This isn’t someone “associated with Trinity”; it’s someone associated with Barack Obama. Again, this is a question of who one chooses to associate with, and combine this with close ties with former, and unrepentant, member of the Weather Underground, calls into question Obama’s judgement.

And this judgement extends to his choice of church. I don’t want to paint all members and guest speaker with a single, broad brush, but I do want to note that he’s attended this church for more than 20 years. Is it really reasonable to assume that this incendiary rhetoric just started in the 5 months since the Iowa caucuses? I find that hard to believe, so if it’s worth quitting the church over now, why wasn’t it worth quitting over years ago?

(Scott Ott, who writes the humorous ScrappleFace blog, has a serious piece at called “Dear Sen. Obama, Join My Church” that speaks perfectly to this issue.)
Obama’s statement gives the impression of not wanting to have to answer to every person standing in the Trinity pulpit. This is most certainly not the problem. The problem is the people in that pulpit who have over the years been his spiritual leaders by choice, and who have longtime relationships with him. Was this parting of the ways a political move or not? If it wasn’t, he’s projecting a false impression of his ties and expecting us to believe this vitriol is new to him. If it was political, then his explanation is disingenuous; this was much more a political decision than a personal one. Either way, this doesn’t speak well for Obama.

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