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. Judaism comes from the Sumerian Religion

    No different than the Anti-American Evangelicals....both parties s u c k

    June 29, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
  2. Sandra in NC

    I plan on voting again and I hope that this time we do not make the same mistake we did 4 yrs ago.

    June 29, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
    • Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

      Haha! I'm voting again for President Obama, the Greatest President in US history! There's a simple cure for your envy and jealousy! Its called Kool-Aid! Haha! Obama/Biden 2012 by a landslide!

      June 29, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
  3. dave

    I can't speak for all religions, but the Gospels have several stories in which people try to get Jesus to express a political message and he always refuses

    June 29, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
  4. Detroit love

    Be careful Mrs. Obama.. when your husband supports things religion clearly doesn't like gay marriage and killing babies, you don't want church people to think about morals too much. Maybe you should have stuck with supporting African Americans.

    June 29, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
  5. tony

    I see we have a strict enforced policy of separation of church from state – yet the Obamas are exempt. Doesn't the practice of campaigning for politics (affairs of the state) in a church grossly contravene that policy.

    June 29, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
    • Sandra in NC

      good question???maybe their tax exempt status should be in question – and No I am not racist.................. I would vote for Condy Rice any day of the week

      June 29, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
    • Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

      Please! Your seven republican presidential candidates shoved religion down our throats every time they took to the podium and said God told them to run for the presidency! That is hypocrisy!

      June 29, 2012 at 1:44 pm |
  6. TruthSeeker

    True followers of Jesus Christ would not become involved in politics. During his trial before Pontius Pilate: "Jesus answered: “My kingdom is no part of this world. If my kingdom were part of this world, my attendants would have fought that I should not be delivered up to the Jews. But, as it is, my kingdom is not from this source.”" (John 18:36)

    June 29, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
    • niknak

      Yeah, and how did that line of defence work out for him?
      Not too good as it must have sucked getting iron spikes hammered thru his hands and feet.
      Religion is the scurge of humanity.
      Once it is gone we will all be the better for it.
      Free yourself from religion and get salvation.

      June 29, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
    • Mike S.

      @niknak, it worked out exactly as planned. 1 Corinthians 2:7-8 – "But we speak of the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for if they had known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory." Christ came to die as blood sacrifice for all of us that through believing on Him, we all can be saved. He knew what was coming and still offered Himself up out of love for us. How many people do you think would march into that for you or me or anyone else?

      June 29, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
    • TruthSeeker

      Asking whether Jesus would be involved in politics is just like asking what country he would fight for if he came back to the earth.

      June 29, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
  7. Eddie Hurley

    that is against the law they can pull your tax exempt

    June 29, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
    • niknak

      That hasn't stopped the fundies from preaching from their pulpits about who and what to vote for.
      All religions should lose their tax exemption. It is a complete fraud these charletans can get away with preaching this continued sham to their sheep and not have to pay taxes on that money they get.

      June 29, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
  8. Jerry

    chubby rain
    Thank you, cliche republican...
    You may want to make sure to apply copious amounts of Vaseline before you "Bend Forward".


    June 29, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
  9. Devil's in the details

    There are a lot of Republicans complaining about Michelle Obama's little rallying speech. At first I thought they were just whining, but on second thought, I think the Department of Justice, along with the IRS, ought to place undercover agents in all churches just to make sure everyone is playing by the rules.

    Sky myth heads will roll... along with their tax exempt status. There goes your tax free diamond mines in S. Africa, Pat Robertson.

    June 29, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
  10. Obama Breaks Down Why We Need Separation of Church & State

    It is good her husband is president and not her.


    June 29, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
  11. J.C.

    All churchgoers need to get more political. Unless those churchgoers belong to a church that I disagree with. Then they need to be quiet and stay home in order to fulfill the separation of church and state. Clear?

    June 29, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
  12. malhawk

    This is why all churches should being paying their fair share of taxes. Religious organizations should not be exempt.

    June 29, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
  13. JusticeIsNonexistent

    I hope she fires them up. The best way to get rid of Obama is for Christians to unite and take our country back.

    June 29, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
  14. Rev. Glenn

    Mrs. Obama gave a passionate speach that spoke to where we live and challenged us for action. God bless Mrs. Obama and the United States.

    June 29, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
    • HTL

      Churces aren't allowed to endorse candidates.

      June 29, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
    • Heywood_Jablowme

      then I'll quote Rev. Wright "God Damn" Michelle Obama.....

      June 29, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
  15. DaveinIL

    So it's OK for Michelle Obama to go out and rally the churches to "get political" and re-elect Barack but it's wrong for Catholics to do the same think re religious freedom. Liberals are such hypocrites.

    June 29, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
    • IAM

      We are all hypocrites, aren't we ? The evangelical churches preach politics from the pulpit all the time. I agree, it is not right, but what can you do. There should be no politicizing from the pulpit at all.

      June 29, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
    • Judaism comes from the Sumerian Religion


      So it's OK for Michelle Obama to go out and rally the churches to "get political" and re-elect Barack but it's wrong for Catholics to do the same think re religious freedom. Liberals are such hypocrites.

      No its not okay. Both parties s u c k. I can't stand the Evangelicas and I cant stand the liberal tards. We are sc r ewe d by both parties.

      June 29, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
    • Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

      Obama/Roberts 2012! Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahhahahhahahahahahhahahahahahhahahahaha!

      June 29, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
  16. Jack

    Hello, everyone is invited to visit – thestarofkaduri.com

    June 29, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
  17. TonyO

    The pastor of the church I went to 4 years ago had admonished the congregation when they wore political buttons that endorsed either candidate. The pastor said in a typed statement that due to the 501c3 tax exemption, neither he nor any of the congregants can endorse any candidate while attending church, or face the loss of the tax exemption. I admonished him for loving money at the time. But now the president's wife comes into a church and says "go ahead and do it for a black president". Isn't this biased behavior? Are all churches now allowed to endorse a candidate, whoever it is? Without the loss of the tax exemption?

    June 29, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
    • HTL

      It's okay to do this if you are black, they are given special privileges to balance the scales of justice from the past.

      June 29, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
    • Dan Miller

      That's actually incorrect. Pastors and leaders of churches cannot endorse candidates, nor can the church, but nobody can stop congregants from wearing whatever buttons or t-shirts they want to wear.

      June 29, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
    • jj

      Your pastor lied to you. Churches are allowed to be as political as they want to be. I go to a church that has over 4,000 people and we help people register to vote as well as encourage people to take a stance for Biblical principles. Now my pastor doesn't sit there and preach politics, but if he wanted to he could. You cannot lose your tax exemption status by supporting a political candidate.

      June 29, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
    • TonyO

      He specifically wrote that because we were known members of the church, we were representatives of the church, and therefore under the same ordinance as he regarding the endorsement of any candidate.

      June 29, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
    • TonyO


      June 29, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
  18. PDH

    I agree with the first lady in regard to black people to get more political and stop being so religious ,has proven not to be effective and pastors need to stop allowing these politicians come into their churches and make empty promises,

    June 29, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
  19. ModernMan


    June 29, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
  20. Devil's in the details

    Why do Republicans whine so much? Is there any question at all that the Christian right is the most politically active segment in religious circles? As these sky-myth believers would say, "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her." (John 8:7)

    June 29, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
    • HTL

      Republicans whine when they don't get their way just as the Democrats. Difference is the Democrats enable the lowest case denominator. This never works out very well. Enough with the self-righteous bs already, politics isn't humanity. But humanity must coexist with politics.

      June 29, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
    • Devil's in the details

      Yeah, but Republican are so good at whining, aren't they. Less of a moral outrage, and more of an art form. And on your daffy self-righteous politics v humanity comment, you might want to loosen those panties, Nancy. They seem a little twisted.

      June 29, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
    • Eddie Hurley

      you are a sick person first you have no idea what you are talking about no body cry's more than Democrats they leave the state when they don't get their way like nancy P walk out two days ago

      June 29, 2012 at 1:13 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.