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June 28th, 2012
04:36 PM ET

First lady implores black churchgoers to get political

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

(CNN) - First lady Michelle Obama made an impassioned pitch for black churchgoers to embrace political action on Thursday in a speech to the country’s oldest black religious denomination.

“To anyone who says that church is no place to talk about these issues, you tell them there is no place better,” Obama said at a conference of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Nashville, Tennessee.

“Because ultimately, these are not just political issues,” she said. “They are moral issues.”

With Election Day a little more than four months away, the first lady decried what she suggested was voter apathy in the black community.

“How many of us have asked someone whether they’re going to vote, and (they) tell us, ‘No, I voted last time,’ or ‘Is there really an election going on?’ ”

“After so many folks sacrificed so much so that we could make our voices heard, so many of us just can’t be bothered,” she said.

Obama said that while some voters were “tuning out” and “staying home,” powerful interests are busy raising money to influence Washington.

Barack Obama took 96% of the black vote in 2008, and strong turnout among African-Americans and other minorities will be crucial if he hopes to win a second term, analysts say.

Surveys show that African-Americans attend church in higher numbers than white Americans do, and Democratic politicians have long made a habit of speaking from black pulpits in the leadup to Election Day. The AME Church has a general convention every four years.

The first lady also spoke of her husband on Thursday, telling the story of a photo hanging in the Oval Office that shows the president meeting a 5-year-old African-American boy at the White House three years ago.

White House photographers change the photos hanging in the West Wing ever couple of weeks, Michelle Obama said, except for that one.

“If you ever wonder whether change is possible in this country, I want you to think about that little black boy in the Oval Office of the White House touching the head of the first black president.”

She said blacks had to actively make good on their centuries-old legacy of political activism, mentioning names like Frederick Douglass and Rosa Parks.

“Today, the connection between our laws and our lives isn’t always as clear as it was 50 years or 150 years ago,” she said. “And as a result, it’s sometimes easy to assume that the battles in our courts and legislatures have all been won.”

In her speech, Obama promoted causes like investing in roads and schools, creating jobs and taking care of veterans.

“Our faith journey isn’t just about showing up on Sunday for a good sermon and good music and a good meal,” she said. “It’s about what we do Monday through Saturday as well.”

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: 2012 Election • Barack Obama • Christianity • Politics

soundoff (671 Responses)
  1. janelle

    Uh, aren't Liberals the ones who are crying that churchs' should lose tax exempt status if the preacher even mentions anything political? Oh, wait, I get it, like everything else, it's perfectly okay if you're talking about the "right", meaning liberal, point of view. If you're talking about the "wrong" or conservative point of view, you must be punished and shut down.

    June 29, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
  2. Primewonk

    A few short months ago, various tea bagger candidates for President were tripping over each other trying to "out Jesus" each other – seeing who could speak in the most (white) churches.

    There was no umbrage from you tea baggers over this. There was no cry from you folks that your candidates were doing this.

    So why the (fake) umbrage now? Why was it OK for your side to do this?

    June 29, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
    • Dyslexic Dog

      amen brother!

      June 29, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
  3. John

    It is immoral to impose your religion on others.

    June 29, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
    • Nick

      First off change that moniker from John.It is a digrace to use that handle for such a distasteful comment.

      June 29, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
    • the Baptist

      It is immoral to impose your religion on others.

      June 29, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      This exchange could get interesting...

      June 29, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
    • APO_AE_09173

      John, you are absolutely right. I should not force you to believe as I do–Christ was pretty clear on the whole free will thing. However you must have the same respect for my beliefs and not ask me to violate them.

      June 29, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      It is immoral to impose your stupid supersti.tious beliefs on rational people. Thanks for playing...

      June 29, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
  4. Jack

    Hello, everyone is invited to visit – thestarofkaduri.com

    June 29, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
    • and Jill

      Why, you need hits to make money?

      June 29, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
  5. LT

    I whole heartedly agree with you Michelle. But did you forget that law that your husband absolutely supports saying that any church that does this will have their tax exemption stripped.

    June 29, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
    • LT

      I hope you really mean that Michelle, because if the true church of Jesus Christ were really to get political like they really are supposed to, the church, black, white or whatever color, if it truly followed the teachings of the Word of God whole heartedly would vote against your stand on abortion and against your husband's stand regarding gay marriage.

      June 29, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
    • Dyslexic Dog

      if the true church of Jesus Christ were really to get political like they really are supposed to ... you wouldn't vote for a Mormon as Mormonism is 1000 times more insulting of your faith and against what it says in your Bible and against the word of the Christian God ... but ... you are all going to vote for him anyway ...

      You should be Christians before you are Republicans ... but it looks like you are FOX News brainwashed Republicans first

      June 29, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
    • APO_AE_09173

      Dyslexic Dog
      Well that depends on how you view the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the "Mormons) who deeply believe in Christ and his teachings of self reliance and service to others.

      June 29, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
    • Dyslexic Dog

      @APO_AE_09173
      don't Mormons believe that they can be a God?
      Don't you rank Joseph Smith as an equal of Jesus?
      and on and on and on ... too many to name here
      study all of the massive contradictions. Mormons may be good and honest but the Mormon religion plainly made up by a reknowned con-man contradicts the bible on all levels except for the vast sections of the bible that JS copied word for word.

      June 29, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
  6. Alize Jenkins

    She's assuming the church will get political and vote for her husband? I wish the Black church would get political and NOT vote for a president who ignores the Black community until voting time. He can address the issues that concern Jews, Latinos, LGBT and "middle America" but can't say nothing for Blacks. I wish the Black church would get political and stop allowing itself to be pimped without payment.

    June 29, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
    • Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

      Let me see... you're one of those so-called African-Americans who voted for John McCain! Hey, don't complain! After all, you can cast your vote for Mitt Romney and be on the losing end of history once more! Sellout!

      June 29, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
    • Tim

      Spot on!

      June 29, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
  7. kelly

    Paul, she mixed it...period. Religion and church are supposed to be so separate they are protected rights with tax-free status. She is preying and it's sad that some will fall for it, but many true Americans are finally seeing the light here and rejecting the underhanded work of this administration (and its spouses...ridiculous to even have to mention that because for some reason she is given a platform despite having not been elected to anything!).

    June 29, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
    • Primewonk

      Kelly – but it's OK when Palin, Bachmann, Perry, Santorum, Gingrich, et al, campaign this way in fundiot white churches, right?

      I mean, looking back when these folks were lining up to go talk in your churches, I don't remember seeing you guys speaking out against it.

      Why the difference?

      June 29, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Primewonk

      Why do you assume that Kelly is a Republican? I hate the Obama administration and I'm not a Republican.

      June 29, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
    • Paul

      With all due respect I think your true colors came out when you said "True" Americans. Are the Obamas not true because they don't agree with you? Am I not a "true" American? I thought the greatest thing about America was that we are a nation of diversity and freedom. You know, where people can live their lives and have their own opinions without being called un-American.

      June 29, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
    • Dyslexic Dog

      @Rational Libertarian
      Libertarians are just angry Republicans. you're all the same.

      June 29, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
  8. PhKnight

    Why should black Americans vote for a president who does more for illegal aliens then the people he says he's here to help?

    June 29, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
    • Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

      I believe when my African ancestors came to America, they too came here illegally on a slave ship! And by the way, 3/4 of the American Southwest belongs to the so-called illegals!

      OBAMA/ROBERTS AND ILLEGALS 2012! O' YEA AND JOE BIDEN TOO!

      June 29, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Actually, the slave trade was legal at the time. There were illegal trade practices concerning the slave trade, but selling black slaves wasn't illegal. Horrible yes, illegal no.

      June 29, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
  9. Pt8685

    Take that, atheists and secularists!

    Michelle is right about religion in the public square. We MUST govern our nation by a set of values. Those values MUST be informed by our faith. People who argue that religion and politics don't mix are blind to this reality.

    What would such people have us do, govern by scientific experiments and mathematical formulas?

    June 29, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      My faith is Satanism. Do you want my faith's morals forced on you?

      June 29, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
  10. Davis

    Ok Michelle, then I guess we'll just have to see to it that any church doing this will have their tax-exempt status stripped away.

    June 29, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
    • Davis

      This is only if it come from the pulpit, mind you. There is nothing wrong with people talking in the halls and parking lots at church. But once it come from the pulpit, time to pounce.

      June 29, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
  11. Paul

    CNN, your headline and article are a gross misrepresentation of what the First Lady actually said. She wasn't advocating any particular political agenda, only encouraging everyone to participate in the political process, from local politics to national. I am very uncomfortable with mixing religion and politics, but this was just basically a civics lesson on why everyone should be aware and vote. To those of you like me who were first "duped" by CNN into thinking this was an attempt by Mrs. Obama to get churches involved in the campaign, I encourage you to actually watch the speech. It is harmless and good advise from wherever you stand.

    June 29, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
  12. kelly

    She really seems off base and un-american, maybe even dangerous with this vibe of ill-will. Her idea of the way things should be just doesn't line up with what has made this country great. And michelle, fyi, the ultimate immoral maneuver is to mandate from a position of governance rather than preserving the natural freedom of every individual. Get it right. It seems a pompous, pseudo-intellectual, i'll-tell-you-how-to-live-eat-breathe-medicate tyrant lies within. Hard to believe many naive citizens want to blindly support her (and the ads she does for her husband's political business life...although he wants his family to be out of reach for media critique??). Thankfully, more and more wise citizens seem to be catching on.

    June 29, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      What else would you expect from a Democrat (or a Republican, for that matter)?

      June 29, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
    • Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

      Obama/Roberts 2012!

      June 29, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
  13. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    June 29, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
    • Dyslexic Dog

      troll

      June 29, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
    • Jesus

      .Prayer doesn’t not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!~~

      June 29, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
  14. EGH129

    How pathetic this goof ball plays the black jesus freak, can I get an Amen bothers, to try and somehow get this demographic of intellegence of the couch and vote. Obama must really be in trouble.

    June 29, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
    • Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

      Yea, Obama is in trouble right? Obama/Roberts 2012!

      June 29, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
  15. kmcc

    You do realize that the article says "black church-goers" and not churches themselves right? The article also reads that since african-americans attend church more than whites do in the US, that approaching voters in church is a good way to reach them, regardless of your political affiliations. She made not comment to churches themselves supporting one candidate over another- she only reached out to the people in the church. Reading the entire article before posting comments is key.

    June 29, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
  16. COACH TYRONE

    THIS IS WHAT OUR COUNTRY NEEDS THE DEVIL IS BUSY.OBAMA FOR LIFE

    June 29, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
  17. lala

    Way to break out into Ebonics.

    June 29, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
  18. TeeMiller

    What's news about this? Black churches have been political for years and years. They regularly have candidates come and speak at their services. I'm talking about both black and white candidates, who know how to get the black vote. Nobody has ever tried to take away their tax exemption!

    Now the Catholic bishops are talking about the ISSUE of religious freedom - not endorsing a candidate, mind you; and people are outraged.

    June 29, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
  19. Dyslexic Dog

    you people are kidding with these posts? The Republican party has hijacked the flag and religion for the last decade and runs on an almost purely Christian platform. Now you get upset because the First Lady speaks at a church and claim separation of church and state?!?!

    If you want to talk about hypocricy, ask why anyone who calls themselves a Christian would vote for Romney who believes in a religion (cult) that is an affront to Christianity. But go on all you Christians ... continue to pick and choose which parts of the Bible you vehemently shove down people's throats and which parts you pretend don't exist depending on what is convenient for you at that monent!

    June 29, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
    • Falcon 78

      Great, just great. "Dyslexic Dog"–that's a great (but anonymous name). What are you trying to convey with such a nice name? Your reply makes you out as a very caring person. So, "all [us] Christians." What are you? The Taliban. Your answer does nothing to contribute to the dialogue of how do we fix with practical measures what is going on in this country. I'm sure you've done a lot to contribute to your community, state, city–right? You sound like you've rolled up your sleeves and gotten involved to try and help. Right? C'mon–come back when you have something constructive and helpful to say, instead of more whining.

      June 29, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
    • Dyslexic Dog

      just pointing out Christian hypocrisy 🙂

      June 29, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
    • Dyslexic Dog

      and btw, I am a doctor who gives my time and medical expertise free one day a week at a local clinic and I volunteer at a local soup kitchen. I join in trash collection at a regional national park and I recycle diligently. I donate heavily to charities.

      how do we fix with practical measures what is going on in this country? We keep the ultra religious right wing party that ruined this country with 8 years of disasterous economic policy out of office and let Mr Obama and his policies bring us back to prosperity. There. Is that OK with you? 🙂

      June 29, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
    • I Be Chillin

      Dsylexic Dog is a true moron. Just spouting randomly from the Donna Brazil script, another braindead leftie.

      June 29, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
    • Arawn

      Sounding like an "angry black man."

      June 29, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
    • Dyslexic Dog

      @I Be Chillin
      resort to name calling certainly ... it does you credit ... but I would be amused at any attempt you might make to argue any of my points of fact.

      June 29, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
    • APO_AE_09173

      What is your beef with the LDS faith?

      Come to one of our services–get to know us before you spout hate. We are a good people that serve often.
      FYI our volunteers were the first into the disaster area after Katrina–and for that matter the first civilians on the ground in Bande Ache after the Tsunami in 2004–only the US navy beat our supplies and volunteers.

      We are one of the VERY few organizations that puts 100% of each dollar donated to the LDS charity fund to the recipients–our church covers the cost of the overhead.

      Mitt Romney is a decent man. No so Obama. Romney's life is well known and people that know him are all around to tell you what they like and don't like about him. Not so Obama. We know Romney's grades and details of his whole life from childhood on. WIth Obama we have a Composite life story of sorts, composite gilrfriends and wildly inacurate details of his famiy life. He sealed his records.

      Romney isn't perfect but he will do more for the nation in terms of healing and budget balancing than Obama ever thought about doing. We will be better off with a man who can lead and understands leadership.

      Had Obama waited a few years and grown out of his adolescence–learned what it is to lead. He might have been a better president he might have done something good.

      June 29, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
  20. KennyG

    Does Ms O understand the premise, separation of church and state? And, why is she directing her call to political action to blacks only? Isn't the president the president of the whole United States?

    June 29, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.