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Angie Drobnic Holan
By Angie Drobnic Holan January 11, 2008

Any race may join Chicago church

An anonymous e-mail criticizes the church Barack Obama belongs to: "Notice too what color you will need to be if you want to join Obama's church... B-L-A-C-K!!!" (For more on this e-mail and its claims, read our story here .)

Barack Obama belongs to Trinity United Church of Christ, which serves predominantly African-American neighborhoods in Chicago and has a mostly African-American membership. But you do not have to be black to join Trinity. The church, which has been overwhelmed with media inquiries, said in a statement that it welcomes people of all races and has white members.

"There's no question (the e-mail) is a distortion," said Martin Marty, a retired Chicago-based historian of religion and public life, who is white and has attended services at Trinity several times.

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Dwight Hopkins, a professor of divinity at the University of Chicago who attends Trinity and is black, said he also regularly sees a few white people at Trinity.

Many churches are ethnically homogenous, but that doesn't mean they require members to be a certain race. We find the e-mail's statement that Trinity United Church of Christ only accepts African-Americans for membership to be False.

UPDATE: Barack Obama resigned from Trinity United Church of Christ on May 31, 2008, after church pastor Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. made controversial remarks about U.S. foreign policy and other matters. Obama said he intends to join another church after the election.

Our Sources

Web site for Trinity United Church of Christ

Statement from the Trinity United Church of Christ

Statement from the Barack Obama campaign

Interview with Martin E. Marty , retired historian

Interview with Dwight Hopkins of the University of Chicago

Interview with Michael Cromartie, vice president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center

Interview with John C. Green of the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life

Hannity & Colmes, Obama's Pastor: Rev. Jeremiah Wright , March 2, 2007

New York Times, A candidate, his minister and a search for faith , April 30, 2007

Associated Press, Obama's activist church enters spotlight , March 20, 2007

New York Times, Disinvitation by Obama Is Criticized , March 6, 2007

Chicago Tribune, Pastor inspires "audacity to hope" , Jan. 21, 2007

Barack Obama Senate office, Call to Renewal Keynote Address , June 28, 2006

Barack Obama speech, A Politics of Conscience , June 23, 2007

Read the full text of the anonymous e-mail here .

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Any race may join Chicago church

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