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ELECTION 08: Obama’s church printed pro-Hamas, anti-Israel editorial in bulletin

WASHINGTON (BP)–Two days after delivering a much-publicized speech on race, Democrat & presidential candidate Barack Obama once again found himself distancing himself from his church — this time the congregation’s publication of a pro-Hamas, anti-Israel op-ed in a church bulletin.

As first reported by the website BizzyBlog, Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago last July republished an editorial from The Los Angeles Times in which Mousa Abu Marzook, an official with the Palestinian group Hamas, defended the group’s refusal to recognize Israel’s right to exist. The United States officially views Hamas as a terrorist organization. A headline above the column in the bulletin read, “A Fresh View of the Palestinian Struggle.”

The column was first published in the L.A. Times July 10 and then republished in the bulletin July 22. It was posted on controversial pastor Jeremiah Wright’s “Pastor’s Page.”

“I have already condemned my former pastor’s views on Israel in the strongest possible terms,” Obama said in a statement to the Jewish news website JTA.com, “and I certainly wasn’t in church when that outrageously wrong Los Angeles Times piece was re-printed in the bulletin. Hamas is a terrorist organization, responsible for the deaths of many innocents, and dedicated to Israel’s destruction, as evidenced by their bombarding of Sderot in recent months. I support requiring Hamas to meet the international community’s conditions of recognizing Israel, renouncing violence, and abiding by past agreements before they are treated as a legitimate actor.”

Last November, when President Bush led a peace conference between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Hamas led an anti-Abbas protest of upwards of 100,000 people in the Gaza Strip with people chanting “death to Israel, death to America” and calling Abbas a “traitor,” Reuters reported at the time.

In the editorial, Marzook laid out the goals of Hamas and said the organization’s “struggle has always been focused on the occupier and our legal resistance to it.”

“Why should anyone concede Israel’s ‘right’ to exist, when it has never even acknowledged the foundational crimes of murder and ethnic cleansing by means of which Israel took our towns and villages, our farms and orchards, and made us a nation of refugees?” Marzook asked.

One of the goals of Obama’s speech on race March 18 was to distance himself from the remarks of Wright, whom Obama has known for some 20 years. Wright is retiring from the church. Among his more controversial statements, Wright has blamed the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on America’s past actions, called America the “U.S. of K.K.K.A.” and said that instead of singing “God Bless America,” black Americans should sing “God d— America.” The speech was the subject of Sunday talk shows, with some commentators suggesting Wright could be a problem for Obama for months to come.

“You can see now a more plausible way that Republicans or Obama’s opponents can talk about how he, Sen. Obama, is outside the mainstream without appearing to go too far, because there’s no question that … Reverend Wright’s remarks are outside the mainstream,” Newsweek’s Jon Meacham said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.

Conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer, in a March 21 Washington Post column, said Obama’s speech left one question unanswered: why he remained in the church.

“Obama … waxes rhapsodic about the hope brought by the new consciousness of the young people in his campaign,” Krauthammer wrote. “Then answer this, Senator: If Wright is a man of the past, why would you expose your children to his vitriolic divisiveness? This is a man who curses America and who proclaimed moral satisfaction in the deaths of 3,000 innocents at a time when their bodies were still being sought at Ground Zero. It is not just the older congregants who stand and cheer and roar in wild approval of Wright’s rants, but young people as well. Why did you give $22,500 just two years ago to a church run by a man of the past who infects the younger generation with precisely the racial attitudes and animus you say you have come unto us to transcend?”

WRIGHT TO SPEAK AT BRITE — Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth, Texas, will honor Wright at a banquet Saturday with a black leadership award. Brite, which receives money from the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, is situated on the campus of Texas Christian University.

“Rev. Wright is a superb preacher, minister of the Gospel and self-giving servant of the Christian community who attempts to speak the truth about justice and peace from his perspective and experience as an African-American religious leader,” Mark G. Toulouse, professor of American religious history at Brite, told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Nancy J. Ramsay, dean of Brite Divinity School, and Eugene Brice, a trustee of Brite Divinity School, co-wrote a column for the Star-Telegram explaining why the school is honoring Wright.

“As is the case with all persons recognized by Brite, we do not endorse all of Wright’s statements, but we honor the accomplishments of a man who has had a remarkable career as an effective pastor and preacher,” they wrote. “He has led a ministry that has touched the lives of thousands with the power of God’s love, mercy and grace.

“All speeches, sermons and documents need to be understood through the setting, historical moment, issues and audience they address. Religious leadership always includes the prophetic responsibility to speak and act in behalf of God’s justice. As a religious leader, Wright’s preaching is clearly in the broad stream of scholars and preachers who stand on the biblical foundation of prophets such as Amos, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Jesus who also spoke words of God’s judgment to the political and religious community of their day.”
Michael Foust is an assistant editor of Baptist Press.

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