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This is the third of a series of articles WND has developed from months of confidential in-person interviews with members of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago who have known Barack and Michelle Obama on a personal basis over many years. In the first story, members of the church claimed Barack Obama benefited from Wright’s “Down Low Club,” part of a documented underground subculture in which black men who engage in homosexual activity marry to maintain respectability in public. In the second story, sources said civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, along with Rev. Jeremiah Wright, arranged Michelle Robinson’s marriage to Barack Obama. Because of the personal risk the sources perceived they were taking to speak candidly about the president and his family, their identities have been masked.
Barack Obama joined Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago purely for political reasons, according to long-term member of the congregation who knew the Obamas.
“Obama may say he’s a Christian, but he’s not,” said the member, identified for this story as “Rose.” “Joining Trinity for Obama was a political decision, not a religious one.”
Rose pointed out that when Obama came to Chicago after graduating from Columbia University, he was an outsider, albeit with important contacts in Chicago’s African-American power structure.
She noted Obama’s mentor in Hawaii was Frank Marshall Davis, the Communist Party USA member and activist who made his reputation in Chicago.
Davis and Vernon Jarrett, the father-in-law of senior White House adviser Valerie Jarrett, were close friends in Chicago and colleagues at the Chicago Defender and the Chicago Star, two communist-run newspapers during the 1940s.
In early 1948, Davis and Vernon Jarrett served together on the publicity committee of the Citizen’s Committee to Aid Packing-House Workers, a communist-organized labor union that represented workers in the meatpacking industry.
“Think about it,” Rose said, “Obama’s Kenyan father abandoned him. In Hawaii, Obama fills that in with Frank Marshall Davis. In Chicago, it’s Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
She pointed out that Davis admitted to being bisexual, and there are rumors in the South Side Chicago community that Wright is bisexual.
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In the early 1980s, Wright married Ramah Reed, a woman whose husband, Delmer Reed, went public with the charge Ramah divorced him and married Wright shortly after the couple came to the pastor for marriage counseling. Ramah and Jeremiah Wright have five children and three grandchildren.
Rose explained that to rise in Chicago politics, Obama needed an association with a church that would accept him as a homosexual, and he needed a mentor who could introduce him to the power players in Chicago’s hotbed of African-American politics.
As WND reported, rumors that Wright was running a “matchmaking service” for homosexual men at Trinity known as the Down Low Club, which included Obama, were investigated by opposition researchers for Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign.
The New York Times reported in 2003 on the growing underground subculture in the black community, comprised largely of men who secretly engage in homosexual activity while living “straight” lives in public.
“Ironically,” Rose continued, “for many young black guys in Chicago being down low is the only way out, provided you have someone like Rev. Wright to protect you.”
She also noted Obama and Wright shared common political sympathies.
“Remember, Obama was raised Muslim by his stepfather in Indonesia,” she said. “That’s the thing about Rev. Wright and Trinity. Wright is close to Louis Farrakhan and Farrakhan is Black Muslim. Regardless what Obama may say for political reasons, his sympathies are Muslim. And he’s angry inside – angry at whites – which is why Rev. Wright’s brand of black liberation theology appealed to him.”
In 1995, Obama joined Wright on a trip to Washington, D.C., to participate in Farrakhan’s Million Man March.
The community organizer
Jerry Kellman, the Chicago-trained professional organizer who recruited Obama to Chicago to work in the Developing Communities Project, was known for using the technique of radical 1960s thinker and activist Saul Alinsky of extensively interviewing pastors and active church members to identify salient community issues, concerned residents and respected community leaders.”
By the 1960s, Alinsky gravitated toward using community churches as focal points for his organizational efforts, knowing local churches had strong community ties, could provide the community organization with experienced, respected leaders and offered a wide range of material resources that included office space, access to meeting rooms and office machinery.
Explaining his success in organizing the Back of the Yards slum area in Chicago, Alinsky said “the first thing I always do, is to move into the community as an observer, to talk with people and listen and learn their grievances and their attitudes.”
Then, he continued, the area was 95 percent Roman Catholic, and he recognized that “if I could win the support of the church, we’d be off and running.”
From his first conversation with Kellman, Obama was made to understand he could not ignore the African-American church if he were to succeed as a community organizer.
“Most of our work is with churches,” Kellman told Obama in their first meeting, as recounted on page 141 of “Dreams from My Father.”
“If poor and working-class people want to build real power, they have to have some sort of institutional base,” Kellman said.
But, even here, Kellman displayed Alinsky-like pragmatism.
“Churches won’t work with you, though, just out of the goodness of their hearts,” Kellman continued in that first meeting, which Obama described as his job interview. “They’ll talk a good game – a sermon on Sunday, maybe, or a special offering for the homeless. But if push comes to shove, they won’t really move unless you can show them how it will help them pay their heating bill.”
Throughout his work in the Developing Communities Project, Obama did not join a church. It was not until near the end of his time in Chicago that he joined Trinity, when he realized he needed more professional training to advance in Chicago politics and he decided to see if he could get into Harvard Law School.
Obama returned to networking to advance his career.
WND has reported a Chicago network that included Vernon Jarrett and Khalid Abdullah Tariq Al-Monsour, the former Black Panther and lawyer then known as Donald Warden, helped to get Obama accepted at Harvard Law School.
In his work on behalf of Saudi Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal and OPEC, al-Monsour reportedly sought to create a fund that would provide $20 million for 10 years to aid 10,000 minority students each year, including blacks, Arabs, Hispanics, Asians and Native Americans.
As WND reported in 2009, Sutton, then an octogenarian, in a 2008 appearance on the New York-produced “Inside City Hall” television show explained that al-Monsour made a telephone call to Sutton to bring to his attention Barack Obama.
Sutton said al-Mansour told him about Obama, saying in a letter: “There’s a young man that has applied to Harvard. I know that you have a few friends left there because you used to go up there to speak. Would you please write a letter in support of him?”
On air, Sutton further confirmed he wrote the letter, telling his friends at Harvard, “I thought there was going to be a genius that was going to be available, and I certainly hoped they would treat him kindly.”
A choice, not an epiphany
In his 2007 biography of Obama, “Obama: From Promise to Power,” Chicago Tribune reporter David Mendell claimed that Obama first noticed the church because Wright had placed a “Free Africa” sign out front to protest apartheid in South Africa.
Mendell wrote that in Jeremiah Wright, Obama found a counselor and monitor who could help Obama grapple with “the complex vagaries of Chicago’s black political scene,” as Obama “sought to understand the power of Christianity in the lives of black Americans.”
Introducing Wright in “Dreams from My Father,” Obama says on page 282 that the minister had dabbled with liquor, Islam and black nationalism in the 1960s.
In the sermon from which Obama adapted the title of his second book, “Audacity to Hope,” Wright himself admits he was a Black Muslim for a time.
“I was influenced by Martin King, yes, but there was this other guy named Malcolm, and I tried one brief time being a Muslim: ‘As salaam alaikum’ [‘Peace be with you’],” Wright said in the sermon, “Anything but Christian.”
In “The Audacity of Hope,” on page 207, Obama reveals that a tipping point in his decision to join Trinity was his understanding that “faith doesn’t mean you don’t have doubts, or that you relinquish your hold on this world.”
He decided to be baptized at Trinity, according to “Audacity,” only after he realized “that religious commitment did not require me to suspend critical thinking, disengage from the battle for economic and social justice, or otherwise retreat from the world I knew and loved.”
In clear and direct terms, Obama said his decision to become a Christian “came about as a choice and not an epiphany.”
Even though Michelle and Barack Obama were married at Trinity and their two children were baptized there, none of the Obama family were seriously religious members of the congregation, the members who spoke to WND said.
Edward Klein in his 2012 book “The Amateur: Barack Obama in the White House” quoted, on page 43, Rev. Wright telling him in an interview that church “is not their thing.”
“And even after Barack and Michelle came to the church, their kids weren’t raised in the church like you raise other kids in Sunday school. No. Church is not their thing. Michelle was not the kind of black woman whose momma made her go to church, made her go to Sunday school, made her go to B.Y.P.U. [Baptist Young People’s Union]. She wasn’t raised in that kind of environment. So the church was not an integral part of their spiritual lives after they were married.”
Wright proceeded to tell Klein that Trinity was an integral part of Barack Obama’s politics, because he “needed that black base.”