Yes, we’ve been here before: President Obama has a “Pastor Problem”–at least according to the right.
The Obama family attended Easter services at St. John’s Episcopal Church, just a short distance from the White House. The Obamas have attended St. John’s for previous Easter services, and according to Church history, every president since James Madison has visited the Church. For that reason, a pew nine rows back from the altar is a designated “The President’s Pew” and has the brass plaque to prove it.
The pastor at Sunday’s services was also no stranger to hosting the President of the United States. Rev. Dr. Luis León was tapped to give the benediction at President Obama’s second inauguration ceremony in January, and President George W. Bush often attended Rev. Dr. León’s services at St. John’s while in Office.
All that aside, some of the pastor’s remarks on Sunday had Fox News suggesting that President Obama had run into “Another Pastor Problem.” During the service, Rev. Dr. Luis León expressed frustration at Christian conservatives who use religion to create division and stand in the way of progress for certain groups.
“It drives me crazy when the captains of the religious right are always calling people back,” he said in the sermon. “For blacks to be back in the back of the bus, for women to be back in the kitchen, for gays to be in the closet and for immigrants to be on their side of the border.”
The pastor said that nostalgia for the “good old days” fails to acknowledge the struggles of blacks, women, and gays. “We forget [the old days] have been good for some but they weren’t good for everybody,” he said.
The remarks set off a heated reaction from Christian conservatives and others on the right.
Aside from the Fox News headlong, Mark Tooley, president of The Institute on Religion & Democracy, said that Leon had used the opportunity to take “cheap shots.” On The Rush Limbaugh Show on Monday, Limbaugh and a caller agreed that the pastor’s remarks were in fact a racist attack, “inspired” by President Obama. “That may well be the case,” Limbaugh said in response to the caller.
Take a look at the Hardball Sideshow for more on the controversy.