JERUSALEM – The Hawaii church where President Obama attended Sunday school as a boy has “always” been involved in political activism, the church’s pastor told WND in an interview.
“The Sunday school has always been and to this day still is involved in political activism,” said Rev. Mike Young, pastor of First Unitarian Church of Honolulu.
“We are involved in community organizing, helping churches in foreign countries, social justice issues, like making sure inmates get dinner,” said Young, speaking from Hawaii.
While Obama’s membership as an adult in the controversial Trinity United Church of Christ has received widespread media attention, almost nothing has been reported about his Sunday school attendance at First Unitarian, a far-left activist church that may have helped provide the president’s initial political education.
First Unitarian, a member of the Unitarian Universalist denomination, served as a sanctuary for draft dodgers and was strongly tied to the Students for a Democratic Society, or SDS, during the time Weatherman radical Bill Ayers was a leader in that organization. The Weathermen was an offshoot of the SDS.
Andrew Walden, publisher and editor of the Hawaii Free Press, dug up newspaper clippings from that period as well as print editions of “The Roach,” an SDS publication describing the group’s draft-dodging activism, including at the Unitarian church.
The SDS connection to Obama’s boyhood church is instrumental. During last year’s presidential campaign, Obama notoriously brushed off Ayers’ extremism as irrelevant since most of the Weathermen radical’s violent actions were carried out when Obama was a kid.
“This is a guy (Ayers) who lives in my neighborhood … the notion that somehow as a consequence of me knowing somebody who engaged in detestable acts 40 years ago – when I was 8 years old – somehow reflects on me and my values doesn’t make much sense,” Obama said in 2008.
Obama, however, likely learned values during his Sunday school days at the First Unitarian in the early 1970s.
After living from age 7 with his mother and step-father in Indonesia, where he was enrolled as a Muslim in public schools, Obama was sent back to Hawaii at age 11 in 1971 to reside with his grandmother. His mother moved back to Hawaii in 1972 and stayed there until 1977, when she relocated again to Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation.
In his autobiography, “Dreams from My Father,” Obama recounts on page 17 moving to Hawaii and being enrolled in the Unitarian church.
When Obama’s maternal grandmother died last November, the memorial service, attended by the then–presidential candidate, was held in Honolulu’s Unitarian church.
According to an account in the Tampa Tribune, when Young reminded Obama at his grandmother’s memorial service that he attended the church’s Sunday school as a kid, Obama’s eyes lit up, and he turned to his wife, Michelle, and said, “Hey, that’s right. This is where I went to Sunday school.”
Young recounted to WND yesterday how the bathrooms for the main sanctuary were in full use after the service. Obama said he had to use the restroom, so Young directed Obama and his secret service detail to instead utilize the upper floor facilities, located at the church’s Sunday school operations.
“When he returned,” Young recalled, “I asked Obama if the Sunday school looked familiar. He said it didn’t, but I explained to him we recently remodeled.”
Notorious hotbed of far-leftist activism
Young came to the Honolulu church in 1995. He claimed to WND the church and Sunday school is non-partisan. However, just as it is now, during Obama’s attendance in the early 1970s, the church was a hotbed of far-leftist activism.
The church notoriously granted sanctuary to U.S. military deserters recruited by the SDS. The deserters’ exploits at the church were front page news for months in 1969, including articles in the New York Times.
Eventually, the police raided the church as well as another nearby Honolulu worship house, Crossroads, that was also providing sanctuary to draft dodgers.
Aside from its early connections to the SDS, Young confirmed to WND his church was instrumental in founding the League of Women Voters and activating a local branch of the American Civil Liberties Union.
The church is still active is liberal politics. It reportedly helped to launch the Save Our Constitution effort to fight the constitutional amendment on same-sex marriages. In 2003, the church sponsored a Death with Dignity poll that collected a 72 percent response in favor of end-of-life legislation.
In February 2003, the Unitarian church celebrated its 50th anniversary at a ceremony replete with “Liberal Religion for 50 Years” T-shirts.
The Honolulu Star-Bulletin reported bumper stickers on cars outside the church gave insight into its members’ beliefs: “No War.” “If you want peace, work for justice.” “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”