Program Note: Tune in tonight for Randi Kaye's full report on AC360° at 10 p.m. ET.
You might call it Operation Obama Church Search. I’m talking about a very low-key but calculated effort to find the Obama family the right place to worship in Washington, DC. For my story airing tonight on AC360, I discovered and confirmed with a source inside the White House that a team of advisors is interviewing Pastors and attending services to see what the themes of them are and then reporting back to President Obama.
The White House source says this has nothing at all to do with the mess that Mr. Obama’s former Pastor, Jeremiah Wright, caused for him. Remember it nearly brought down then-candidate Obama’s campaign. My source says this is just about helping the Obamas find the best place for them to worship. He would not say how many churches are under serious consideration but we did some digging of our own.
We visited the 19th Street Baptist Church, where the Obamas went just 48 hours before the Inauguration. Reverend Derrick Harkins told me he was interviewed by the head of the Administration’s Faith Based Initiatives and that he “guesses he’s being vetted.” Reverend Harkins, unlike many other pastors in town, has decided not to lobby the President for his “business”, if you will. He says it would be a “blessing” if the Obamas joined his church but he has no intention of “strategizing”, he says he will leave it to “God’s providential hand.”
Not far away from the 19th Street Baptist Church is the First Baptist Church which is lobbying the President. It hopes to sell him on the church’s indoor basketball court, but if that’s not enough, experience may do the trick. This church is where President Jimmy Carter and his family worshipped; Mr. Carter even taught Sunday School here. Harry Truman was a regular here too. They know about secret service and added security, the mobs of media that follow the President around. Been there, done that, is the attitude of this church. Also, since it’s so close to the White House, just six blocks, the people at First Baptist hope that will help. The White House says the Obama’s church has to be close by, able to handle extra security, maybe even metal detectors, and of course be very active in helping the needy.
The First Baptist Church sent a letter inviting Mr. Obama to visit but it has not received a response. Another pastor in town from the Calvary Church used her blog to invite First Lady Michelle Obama to visit. No response there either. We also visited the church that Abraham Lincoln attended when he was President. That’s the Foundry Church. The Clintons belonged there too. But, we all know how President Obama feels about Mr. Lincoln. That may just seal the deal right there. We’ll keep watching how this vetting process plays out.
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