June 10th, 2008
04:49 PM ET
15 years ago

Obama meets with religious leaders behind closed doors


[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/06/03/art.obama.jpg caption=" Obama privately met with about 30 religious leaders in Chicago on Tuesday."]CHICAGO (CNN) - Presumptive Democratic nominee Barack Obama held a private, closed-press meeting Tuesday with religious leaders, which included Evangelicals, Protestants and Catholics, according to campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki.

About 30 people are expected to attend, including some from Chicago, a campaign aide said. Members of the media were kept out and weren't informed of any details until about 45 minutes prior to the beginning of the meeting.

"Reaching out to the faith community is a priority for Barack Obama and will be a priority under an Obama Administration," Psaki said in an e-mailed statement when pressed for details by members of the traveling press corps. Previously, the only information provided to reporters was that Obama would hold a private gathering with "community leaders."

"This is one of several meetings he will have over the coming months with religious leaders," Psaki said.

The Illinois senator left the traveling press corps upon landing in Chicago after a morning of campaign events in St. Louis, Missouri. Staffers would not disclose the location of the meeting to the reporters who were still on board the plane waiting to depart.

The campaign said privacy was necessary because the meeting includes people who support Obama, as well as some who do not who wanted to remain unidentified.

They provided the names of three leaders in attendance, all of whom happen to be African-American:

Dr. T. Dewitt Smith, president of the Progressive National Baptist Convention; Dr. Stephen Thurston, pastor of the New Covenant Missionary Baptist Church in Chicago; and Bishop Philip Cousin of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, who is pastor of the Philip R. Cousin AME Church in Naperville, Illinois.

Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama
soundoff (274 Responses)
  1. Chill-Out, Phoenix, AZ

    And you people wonder why other countries around the world reading these blogs think America is the land of "HYPOCRITES". Our leaders always talk about spreading democracy and equality and the rule of law yet our people just spew hatred,ignorance, hypocrisy, racial division and religious intolerance. Oh yeah and let's not forget paranoia.


    June 10, 2008 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
  2. eam

    oh man he's already bring in the TRINITY CHURCH OF HATE. hey BO ( and thats cause you stink) you already starting with the cover ups and decieving the country huh. there you go sheep (cause that's what his followers are). He has already started hiding stuff. like i've said time and time again LLLOOOOSSSEEERRR ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! HE JUST THE BLACK VERSION OF BUSH, THATS WHY HE HAS DRAWN SO MUCH INSPIRATION FROM REPUBLICANS, HE ALWAYS HAD SOME GOOD THING TO SAY ABOUT REPUBLICANS DURING HIS CAMPAIGN. OBAMA THE UNDER COVER REPUBLICAN.

    June 10, 2008 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
  3. Robert

    The worry that this is some 'secret' meeting is misplaced. One of the things that I really like about Obama is his willingness to NOT grandstand sometimes. The fact that he had this meeting was not secret at all and was not meant to be hidden. The meeting itself, though, was not for public display and not for media hyping/distortion. It was for talking with a variety of religious leaders. I'd say that this is the opposite of pandering to Americans of faith. It's called dialogue. Substance over show.

    June 10, 2008 08:36 pm at 8:36 pm |
  4. eam



    June 10, 2008 08:38 pm at 8:38 pm |
  5. 1st ammendment

    Keep religion out of government and out of public life - just as our founders wanted.

    One of the main reasons I've supported Clinton is because of Obama's crazy religious stuff. Right-wing or left-wing, it doesn't matter - it's bad for freedom and bad for America.

    June 10, 2008 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  6. Trasa, Texas

    I think it's great that he's making an effort to reach out to the religous leaders. Obama is trying to represent all, you have to keep in mind that there are millions of Americans who believe one way or not. Trying to meet in the middle is hard, because your trying to appeal to everyone. To those that oppose him, remember not everyone leader is always going to have the same complete beliefs. The best thing about looking for a leader is strength character, credentials and do you feel their proposals will help get America on track. If you feel Obama isn't it and McCain is, that's your decision. I'm not going to spend mind time bashing Hillary or her supporters. I will reach out to them if they choose to accept and to McCain and his cult clan, move out of the way.

    June 10, 2008 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  7. WIlly

    Which rent a preacher who hates America you going to bible study with now Obammy

    June 10, 2008 08:44 pm at 8:44 pm |
  8. Louise

    Just one question for Obama: Hey, Obama, who's your mama?

    June 10, 2008 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
  9. Trasa, Texas


    Obama isn't going negative. Let me explain about debating, you have to let your audience know why the opposing side plan is not good for America and vise versa. He's sticking to the issues. Now if he start talking about his age, clothes, wife, etc, then that's going negative. As long as your fighting your opponent on the issues, it's not going negative. Read about debating, you just may gain some knowledge.

    June 10, 2008 08:47 pm at 8:47 pm |
  10. Sarah

    Tracy says:
    "All you guys are hogwash, bull crap, Hillary Clinton, ticked off supporters. Obama is gathering information from everyone. He's meeting with them today, he may meet with gays/lesbians tomorrow, he may meet with white folk, then black folk, he may meet with homeless folk, he's trying to hear from everyone. There are so many of you out there hoping he will fail, but I have news for you, he listens, he hears, he observes, and he informly makes his decisions. He gathers information, he does not just make a decision because you and I say so… Y'all so stupid."

    Gosh, he may even meet with THE GAYS?? Wow, what a guy.
    Yet he hasn't tried to connect with us older woman who, like Hillary, are evidently are only "Likable enough". I'm guessing that ain't going to happen anytime soon. What d'ya think, Trace?

    The mainstream corporate media and Hollywood elite hand-picked this second rate senator because, unlike Hillary, he could easily be controlled to do their bidding. Add the self-reverential celebrity-worshipping Oprah to the mix, stir in some young women who have no clue how women of Hillary's generation paved the way for their reproductive and workplace rights, plus an unfortunate Bush-Clinton-Bush-Bush oligarchy, and we find ourselves in the situation we're in: a neophyte Democratic candidate who is as deep in the pockets of corporate interests and their criminal cronies as McCain or Clinton, yet infinitely less electable. Well, enjoy your rallies this summer, you vapid lemmings. You bought the whole deal hook, line, and sinker and have nothing to show for it but a pantywaist in an empty suit.

    When I saw some of the Obummers proposing Caroline Kennedy as VP today, it became clearer to me that they don't even have a grasp of the most basic of political realities. Not only is Kennedy a vacant, rich debutante who made a name for herself by publishing her parent's writings and slapping a foreword on them, she's also happens to be one of the least politically astute Kennedy's of all time. She's even dumber than her brother, who flew a plane at pretty much a vertical incline straight into Nantucket sound, all the while thinking he was flying horizontally. Come to think of it, sounds a lot like Obama.

    Amazing that you STILL don't fully appreciate the implications of what you've done. You've handed power right back to the Republicans, only you're too busy texting each other and posting photos on your insipid facebook pages to notice. All this talk about disgruntled Clintonites needing to grow up? That we're stupid even? My guess is that maybe you need to take a closer look in the mirror. Oh, I forgot, that's the first thing you do in the morning because, like Obummer, you're all style and no substance.

    June 10, 2008 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  11. Chris

    as there is separation btwn church and state, there is also a right for individuals to practice religion with respect for tradition and faith. Obama is right to recognize this.

    June 10, 2008 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  12. Robert

    Independent Voter, there's a big difference between talking to religious leaders, or people of faith in general, on the one hand, and breaking down the proper wall of separation of religion and government on the other. I'd like my president to be talking to and listening to all kinds of Americans from all walks of life. I would hope that my president wouldn't then simply tow any group's line.

    This worry reminds me of the Bush administration's fear of talking to our enemies. As if, through talking, we will be used and abused. I'd like to think my country and its values are A LOT stronger than that. Confidence over fear. That's the American way, at least in my opinion.

    June 10, 2008 08:51 pm at 8:51 pm |
  13. D-Weezy - OH

    And they are trying to paint him as the most liberal democrat ever. The republicans do this to every single democrat that runs for president. When are we going to calling them on this. This is part of their psychological war-fare to scare everyone to the polls. Next they'll be calling him the anti-christ as they do all the democratic presidents. Okay republicans here you go. He's deeply involved with the faith communities too. Not any particular one like you tried to pull off in the beginning, but was discovered that it was the as usual republican propaganda. Can you repubs please find something new and/or original to lie about, come up with, destroy a legitimate persons reputation with, or at least try to because It's not the peoples fault that you and your parasitic-political-conspiracies are old, tired, and retired.

    June 10, 2008 09:06 pm at 9:06 pm |
  14. joe

    Wow - you would think the man would let the religion thing sit for awhile. Let it go dude...separation of church and state...and separate your religion and it's insanity out existence as far as I am concerned! In fact - why not just take over Trinity and leave politics for the adults? Your speeches would do much better there.

    June 10, 2008 09:07 pm at 9:07 pm |
  15. Jen

    Where is Michelle Obama? Is she working with Tony Robbins on improving her image – or what? Maybe with Oprah?

    June 10, 2008 09:08 pm at 9:08 pm |
  16. Adzam

    I would like to see Obama reach out to scientist and leaders in research fields. Let's get some logic back into government.

    We need a president who is of the "Fact based movement."

    June 10, 2008 09:14 pm at 9:14 pm |
  17. Dave

    McCain is also quite a man of faith, advised by John Hagee and actively courted the endorsement of Pat Robertson and other equally racist and blind evangelicals.

    McCain is no hero.

    June 10, 2008 09:14 pm at 9:14 pm |
  18. tt

    How is this news? I have to pay 52.00 or more each time I fill my gas tank . That should be news! Mccain has met with religous leaders too and Billy Graham blamed the Jews for destroying America but nobody reported Bush's connection with him. With millions of dollars per week spent in IRAQ on the dime of hardworking Americans I do not even think that meeting with religous leaders are worth reporting. I also do not believe the familial relationships such as Obama having several past presidents in his maternal lineage is news either or that Dick Cheney is his cousin. HELLO. What about gas prices, food prices, service prices? What about salary cuts or unemployment? This is news! Pastors and lineage are not worth my time.

    June 10, 2008 09:23 pm at 9:23 pm |
  19. KateyGreen

    Has Obama never heard of separation of church and state? Now he wants to bring more religion into the Democratic Party? Haven't we had enough with Wright and Pfleger? I understand he wants to troll for votes. But at what cost? What will he owe these religious leaders? A voice when it comes to Supreme Court nominees? A voice on a woman's right to choose? A voice on gay rights? Is Obama already selling out?

    June 10, 2008 09:36 pm at 9:36 pm |
  20. Glad to be an Independent

    For some to call a human being the anti-Christ is low and shows the lack of character of that individual. If you are a Christian, then I pray for you because you have missed the meaning of true Christian faith. Do not question the faith of another person because you do not know what is their heart. Someone may look at your actions and wonder about your values. Obama is a professed Christian. He met with religious leaders from the right and the left. He probably met with them behind closed doors because they were unsure of him and the religious leaders from the left and right most likely mistrusted each other. Reporters are not necessary every time he meets with different groups. I applaud him for meeting with religious leaders from both the left and right at the same time. Often, both sides will not meet with each other. For the non-religious person, he is religious person. Should he not profess his faith? You have a right not believe in religion. I sure he respects that. You should give Obama the same courtesy to respect his right to exercise his faith. Many in the Democratic party seem to ridicule people for expressing their faith. As long as they do not ridicule you for not believing in religion, then it is OK. Trying to make people keep their faith to themselves is intolerant.

    June 10, 2008 09:42 pm at 9:42 pm |
  21. MLG

    Obama is a two face. His actions in his church say one thing while he is trying to get our votes. Please stop. McCain is better than you any given day.

    June 10, 2008 09:50 pm at 9:50 pm |
  22. DAD in Hollis, NH

    If Senator Obama wants to make an impression on the moral conservatives he will change his stance on Abortion. If he, in fact, believes that every abortion is a personal tragedy, and has struggled deeply with this issue, he would not work so hard to keep abortion safe, legal and rare. If he believes that government must do better at encouraging alternatives to abortion and declares his support to proposals that decrease the costs of adoption and make the process easier, he cannot promote a pro choice agenda and pledge support for Roe v. Wade.

    This smacks of playing both sides of the fence just for votes. There is great human treasure at stake everyday and he needs to stand clearly on change, one side or the other. What is it going to be, a vote for a Pro-life Obama or no vote at all. I just cannot bring myself to vote for abortion or John McCain.

    June 10, 2008 10:00 pm at 10:00 pm |
  23. "Black In America"

    Obama is meeting with the Religious leaders to see what the needs of the people are. And who better to inform him on the needs and wants of the people of the United States then the head of the churches. The leaders see our pains every week no matter what religious group you belong to. He has said from the beginning that he was going to listen to the people and not the special interest groups and so far my fellow Americans he has done that within the short time he has been the Presumptive Democratic nominee.

    June 10, 2008 10:37 pm at 10:37 pm |
  24. Betty from Ohio

    We all should be on our knees and praying to the God of this nation! Keep your eyes toward heaven, becuse His return is very soon,and it will not be in the form of Obama or any Rev. Wright. He will be the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. I belive He was crusified as the King Of The Jews? Jesus will have the last say in this matter,and when His time has come we shall see Him.

    June 10, 2008 11:57 pm at 11:57 pm |
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