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Posted by on Jan 28, 2008 in Politics, Religion | 24 comments

Obama conference calls with Jewish leaders

From a JTA News Alert today:

Obama listed falsehoods that appeared in an e-mail campaign aimed at Jewish voters.

“I never practiced Islam. I was raised by my secular mother. I have been a member of the Christian religion and an active member of a church,” he said. “I was sworn in with my hand on my family Bible and have said the Pledge of Allegiance since I was 3 years old.”

Obama, who also answered questions about his Iran and Israel-Palestinian policies, as well as noting that he had rebuked his church’s past association with Louis Farrakhan, concluded: “My strong and deep commitment and connection to the Jewish community should not be questioned.”

You can read more from the JTA and listen to the conference call here. This Washington Post column by Richard Cohen does a good job of detailing Obama’s church’s recent identification with Louis Farrakhan, whom the church said, “epitomized greatness” and why it feels problematic to some people.

As I’ve been trying to choose between the Democratic primary choices, I’ve spent more time looking at their statements and positions on Jews, Israel and the Middle East. Here’s Obama in today’s call on his church’s connection to Farrakhan:

Asked why it was sufficient for him to denounce his church’s recent praise for Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan but not resign from the church itself, Obama repeated his condemnation of Farrakhan’s “reprehensible” anti-Semitic views. Then he added what sounds like a promise: “My church has never issued anti-Semitic statements, nor have I heard my pastor utter anything anti-Semitic. If I have, I would have left the church.”

Are we okay with this stance? Would not resigning from a group led by individuals who laud someone like Farrakhan be good enough for other politicians or civic leaders, or have we, in the past, demanded that such people more firmly condemn a person who is considered by some to be homophobic, anti-Semitic and racist? Is there more Obama should be doing vis a vis ensuring his church’s “clean hands” or should we just not impute any uncleanliness to Obama?

I ask, because I’m not sure. What do you expect?

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