President-elect Barack Obama has yet to attend church services since winning the White House earlier this month
President-elect Barack Obama has yet to attend church services since winning the White House earlier this month, a departure from the example of his two immediate predecessors.
On the three Sundays since his election, Obama has instead used his free time to get in workouts at a Chicago gym.
Asked about the president-elect's decision to not attend church, a transition aide noted that the Obamas valued their faith experience in Chicago but were concerned about the impact their large retinue may have on other parishioners.
"Because they have a great deal of respect for places of worship, they do not want to draw unwelcome or inappropriate attention to a church not used to the attention their attendance would draw," said the aide.
Both President-elect George W. Bush and President-elect Bill Clinton managed to attend church in the weeks after they were elected.
In November of 1992, Clinton went to services in Little Rock, Ark., on the three weekends following his election, taking pre-church jogs on the first two and attending on the third weekend a Catholic Mass with the Rev. Jesse Jackson, with whom he was trying to smooth over lingering campaign tensions.
In the weeks after the contested 2000 election, Bush regularly attended services at Tarrytown United Methodist Church in Austin, Texas, and Al Gore was frequently photographed arriving at and leaving church in Virginia.
On his first day as president-elect, following weeks of Florida recounts and court hearings, Bush went to church with his wife, Laura. They attended an invite-only prayer service on Thursday, Dec. 14, at Tarrytown United Methodist Church. About 300 people attended, including top campaign staff and visiting clergy. During the service, the Rev. Mark Craig, senior pastor at Highland Park United Methodist Church in Dallas, told Bush, "You have been chosen by God to lead the people."
Obama was an infrequent churchgoer on the campaign trail, though he did make a series of appearances in the pews and pulpits of South Carolina churches ahead of that heavily religious state's primary.
The issue of where he worships is, of course, fraught. For about two decades, Obama and his family attended Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ. But, with the public disclosure earlier this year of incendiary sermons at Trinity by the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Obama and his wife, Michelle, in June resigned their membership in the large South Side congregation.
At the time, the then-Illinois senator said that he didn't want his "church experience to be a political circus" and expressed regret for the unwanted attention members of the congregation had received, noting that some reporters had taken church bulletins only to call sick members and shut-ins.
During the campaign, Obama returned to Chicago to attend the South Side's Apostolic Church of God on Father's Day Sunday to give a speech aimed at the black community on the importance of fatherhood and family.
A number of Washington, D.C., churches of different denominations and traditions are now competing to become the spiritual home of the new first family.
The Obama aide said the family "look[s] forward to finding a church community in Washington, D.C."