July 6, 2009

President Obama and the Church Thing

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Hallelujah! President Obama has finally chosen a church. Or has he?

Last week, Time Magazine reported that President Obama had finally settled on a church -- Evergreen Chapel, the nondenominational military chapel at Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland.

The White House press secretary, Robert Gibbs later said not exactly: (The Washington Post)

He (the president) said he and his family will attend chapel services at Camp David when they are at the presidential retreat in Maryland -- which he calls a "wonderful little congregation."
"How we handle church when we're here in D.C. is something that we're still figuring out," he said. "And I think that in the second half of the year, we will have made a decision.

What the press secretary failed to mention is that President Obama rarely sets foot in Camp David. And that Obama has only attended church at Camp David a few times (Politico). Looking at how many Sundays he's been at Camp David, I figure a few is maybe two or three.

The press secretary also said that Obama went the same route as President Bush by choosing Evergreen Chapel (link). Bush might have joined Evergreen but he rarely attended services there or at any other church.

The church going habits of the last half dozen presidents are very interesting.

On the Republican side, Ronald Regan never attended church. Bush senior was an infrequent church goer as was W (link). But both previous Democratic presidents Carter and Clinton regularly attended church. Carter attended First Baptist Church in Washington D.C. while he was President. And Clinton attended a Lutheran Church.

I suspect that Carter was the only real believer in the lot. After he left the presidency he actually taught Sunday school and actively participates in his church.

As far as I can tell, President Obama is following the Republicans as far as church attendance is concerned. He has attended Sunday services as president in DC maybe two times.

He went to the 19th Street Baptist Church in January the week before his inauguration. But not as president.

He went to the National Cathedral on the day he was inaugurated and on his 100th day in office. (Both were on a Wednesday and were sort of required because everyone was looking).

His first trip to a real Sunday church service as president was on Easter Sunday. He took the family to St. John’s Episcopal Church which is near the White House. (I am sorry but Easter doesn't count. He had to go to church on Easter. Again because everyone was watching.) He has attended services at St John's one other time (link).

By my count, President Obama has probably been to Sunday church services four or five times since he assumed office a bit more than six months ago.

Combine that with the juicy fact in Richard Wolffe's new book, Renegade, that President Obama really
didn't know about the rantings of Reverend Jeremiah Wright because he rarely attended services at Wright's or any other church unless he was schmoozing people for their votes (see video below).

The president seems to spend his Sundays either at the gym, working, relaxing with his family or playing golf. Which is fine and dandy. If the Republican presidents can play the religion card and not go to church, a Democratic president should be able to do the same thing.

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