ABERDEEN, S.D. - Barack Obama said yesterday that he has resigned his 20-year membership in the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago "with some sadness" in the aftermath of inflammatory remarks by his longtime pastor the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and more recent fiery remarks at the church by a visiting priest.
"This is not a decision I come to lightly . . . and it is one I make with some sadness," he said at a news conference after campaign officials released a letter of resignation sent to the church on Friday.
"I'm not denouncing the church and I'm not interested in people who want me to denounce the church," he said, adding that the new pastor at Trinity and "the church have been suffering from the attention my campaign has focused on them."
Obama said he and his wife has been discussing the issue since Wright's appearance at a Press Club appearance in Washington that reignited furor over remarks he had made in various sermons at the church.
"I suspect we'll find another church home for our family," Obama said.
He said it is clear that since he is a presidential candidate, any remarks made at Trinity by any speaker "will be imputed to me even if they conflict" with his stated views and values.
Obama said he had "no idea" how the resignation would "impact my presidential campaign, but I know it's the right thing to do for the church and our family."
Obama said weeks ago that he disagreed with Wright but initially portrayed him as a family member he couldn't disown. The preacher had officiated at Obama's wedding, baptized his two daughters, and been his spiritual mentor for some 20 years.
But six weeks after Obama's well-received speech on race, Wright said at the Press Club appearance that the US government was capable of planting AIDS in the black community, praised Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, and suggested that Obama was acting like a politician by putting his pastor at arm's length while privately agreeing with him.
After that, Obama denounced Wright comments as "divisive and destructive."
More recently, remarks from the same pulpit by another clergyman, the Rev. Michael Pfleger, kept the controversy alive and proved the latest thorn in the side of Obama. Pfleger mocked Hillary Clinton while serving as a guest speaker at Obama's church.
Obama made it clear he wasn't happy with the comments - in which Pfleger pretended he was Clinton crying over "a black man stealing my show" - and said he was "deeply disappointed" in Pfleger's rhetoric.
Republican John McCain has also had his woes with religious leaders. McCain spurned the months-old endorsement of Texas preacher John Hagee after an audio recording surfaced in which the preacher said God sent Adolf Hitler to help Jews reach the promised land. He later repudiated the support of Rod Parsley, an Ohio preacher who has sharply criticized Islam and called the religion inherently violent.