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. Huebert


    One sin or one billion sins, it's still a finite number. My life will only last so long, and in an eternal time line my life and a gnat's life are about equal in duration. My point is that infinite punishment can NEVER be just. We as humans just don't have the capacity, or time, to do anything that would require such extreme measures.

    June 29, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
  2. Rachel

    She's asking them to get political? Why? What happened Michelle? Are you losing your base due to your husband's failed leadership and change on gay marriage? What a joke.

    June 29, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
  3. Just Claims, No Truth

    "He told you never to do something,"

    No he didn't, there is no evidence there is a god much less your immoral version of a god.

    June 29, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
    • nope

      nope you are wrong, dead wrong

      June 29, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
  4. Leigh

    but...Jesus said for us to be "No Part of the World" -John Chapter 17

    June 29, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
  5. joe

    Hey Michelle why don't you ask them to learn to stand on their feet instead of on my back

    June 29, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
  6. Boot Obama

    Well, this action was about as racist as I have seen, other than the PoS Sharpton and J Jackson. BTW, what in hell is she doing bringing politics into a church?

    June 29, 2012 at 12:45 pm |
    • Primewonk

      What was she doing in a church?

      Probably the same thing as when Bachmann was campaigning in church.
      Probably the same thing as when Perry was campaigning in church.
      Probably the same thing as when Santorum was campaigning in church.
      Probably the same thing as when Gingrich was campaigning in church.

      I didn't see you tea baggers expressing this same umbrage when your candidates were doing the same thing in your fundiot white churches. Why is that?

      June 29, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
  7. Keith

    I don't vote because I don't place my faith in man but in our Lord and savior Jesus Christ. There is a reason people are always let down by the person they voted for who ended up in office. There is always an hidden agenda and you will never be satisfied as a voter. God is in control, not a man we call President.

    June 29, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
    • John

      It is good that you do not vote. Thank you.

      June 29, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
    • Judaism comes from the Sumerian Religion

      Yes your God is in control and clearly he is an a hole. He/she has failed on so many levels. The worst landlord of all time. He is not to be worshipepd rather spit on. Of course all this would be nice if he were real...but he was copied and stolen from an even older religion...which means he is no different than Santa or a fairy.

      June 29, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
    • 1234LISA1234

      Keith: Hello,
      The rules of the spirit are that what one person does gives the growth. Having a human body, for most people ,is a an act of mercy where the person is given a chence to make the way streight Try to keep the ten commandments when awake dereaming and while asleep, this is all you need to do to get your way streight. You can help every body, those awake and those who are asleep how to be usefull; by showing them through your actions. not the words .

      June 29, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
  8. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    June 29, 2012 at 12:42 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 12:50 pm |
  9. Wazzup

    She's like "Go political and support Obama. I love those half million a week vacations on you money".

    June 29, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
  10. justsayin'

    Hey Michele, come and encourage black catholics to get political. Oh wait, that might not work for Barack's re-election.

    June 29, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
  11. Walter Weinzinger

    There's nothing wrong with discussing political issues with other church members when you're at church, or even if moral issues (like CA's Prop 8, abortion, euthanasia, etc.) are preached about across the pulpit, but there is a HUGE problem when politicians are endorsed across the pulpit, unless, of course, the church doesn't care about its 501(c)(3) (tax-exempt) status. "Section 501(c)(3) organizations are subject to limits or absolute prohibitions on engaging in political activities and risk loss of status as tax exempt status if violated." (see http://www.hbtlj.org/v08p1/v08p1elacquaar.pdf )

    June 29, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
  12. Larry

    Does she not know that if a church become "political" it will lose its tax exempt status?

    June 29, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
    • Devil's in the details

      You might want to tell that to Pat Robertson, Robert Jeffress & Southern Baptist Convention, and the rest of the Christian right.

      June 29, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
  13. Keith

    Church and state are seperate, or are suppose to be seperate for a reason. Politics divide us as people before God and builds hatred within us. You can only serve one God. Many pastors have begun bringing politicians into the church establishment and this is why people are leaving, because of the curruption. Politicians are paid to lie, what is holy or God like about that. Obama is a satanic worshipper to add insult to injury and so is his wife. Please do your research people and choose the side that is of thy father in heaven. God bless

    June 29, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
  14. John

    It is immoral to impose your religious views on others. Your religion has no place in politics.

    June 29, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
  15. David

    I guess 501C rules only apply to some churches.
    Why the double standard?

    June 29, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
  16. CNNuthin

    Don't get me wrong. The GOP love going to Places of Politics and push the message of "Get Religious"

    June 29, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
  17. Brad

    Notice she wasn't pandering to white voters.........

    June 29, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
  18. CNNuthin

    While I support President Obama, I do not support this move by Michelle Obama. Taking politics into a Church directly violates the separation of Church and State. Yes, some politicians use Jesus' name all the time for their own purposes, but going into a church to push your own agenda is just rude.

    June 29, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
    • sam

      I thought the speech was about getting involved in communities and voting more – not specifically for what or who. Did you read a different article?

      June 29, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
    • CNNuthin

      Just by being there, it becomes a political move. It is saying, "I am closer to you than the other group."

      June 29, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
    • Fiona

      Hah. Separation of church and state. Can you even imagine having a president who wasn't a said Christian? Our Bible obsessed country wouldn't be able to handle it, despite everything else he might be about.

      June 29, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
  19. JFK on the Separation of Church and State


    June 29, 2012 at 12:36 pm |
  20. icy

    sounds like she is making it a race thing.... shame on your michelle.

    June 29, 2012 at 12:34 pm |
    • Brad

      Like it hasn't BEEN a race thing....................

      June 29, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
    • Cricket10

      Play that race card Michelle. It's only racist if a white person plays it.

      June 29, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
    • Prarie

      every time race is even mentioned in an article, so many people denigrate it as a 'race thing.' She spoke at a black church. I think that's okay.

      June 29, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
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About this blog

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.