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30 April 2008

Obama’s pastor ’juvenile’

Leading UK clergyman Joel Edwards has attacked Barack Obama's former pastor Jeremiah Wright over his

By Ian Reuben

A leading black British clergyman has torn into Barack Obama’s controversial former pastor Jeremiah Wright accusing him of political vandalism and being “juvenile”.

Joel Edwards – who heads the UK’s Evangelical Alliance – made his remarks after Obama sought to distance himself from Wright whose controversial comments have dogged the Democratic hopeful’s bid to run for the White House.

On Monday, at the National Press Club (NPC) in Washington, Wright compounded his earlier comments by making a series of statements denouncing the notion of black allegiance to America. He stated that African-American’s should say “God Damn America” not “God save America”, as a protest at their treatment within the US.

Pastor Wright has also asserted that America’s foreign policies are the reason for the 9/11 terrorist attacks and has gone as far as to suggest that the US government has ‘conspired’ to facilitate the spread of AIDS across the African-American population.

He has also been supportive of controversial Nation of Islam leader, Louis Farrakhan, who has been accused of homophobia and anti-Semitism.

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While there has been widespread public outrage over some of Wright’s comments, parts of the US believes he is voicing some truths about the country’s racial past – especially the legacy of slavery.

Others believe he is an opportunistic agitator, who is using the presidential primaries as a platform for his ‘conflict-ridden’ perspective.

Obama is now having to embark on a damage limitation exercise – putting as much distance between himself and Pastor Wright as possible.

This he did in a series of interviews on Tuesday when his message was unequivocal. “I am outraged by the comments made and saddened over the spectacle we saw,” he said in reference to Wright’s remarks at the NPC in Washington.

Joel Edwards, who is an honorary canon at St Paul’s Cathedral in London, told the New Statesman: “In Britain, Christianity is less politicised than in the US where God is often seen as a Republican mascot.”

Edwards went on to explain that the relationship between politics and religion is “not so intense in the UK and there is a critical partnership for the common good”.

When asked about his reaction to Pastor Wright’s intervention in politics, he said: “I feel impatient with him. After his first outbursts Senator Obama was very tolerant and clever in his response and Pastor Wright should have moderated his remarks. It is curious how he has instead escalated his comments.”

Whether or not Obama’s decision to roundly reject many of his former pastor’s views will have the desired impact, time will tell. But it is likely that some at least in America will have a doubt in minds now about the senator’s judgement.

After all Wright was the man who married Obama and baptised his daughters. In sitting through the pastor’s sermons, the man who would be president must have heard some of these views before.

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