Excerpt from Daily Telegraph (London)
The president is now taking spiritual guidance from no less than five different pastors, whom he phones for advice at moments of stress or when making big decisions.
But a year after the incendiary rantings of Rev Wright threatened to derail Mr Obama’s presidential campaign, revelation of the “dial-a-prayer” sessions has prompted critics to declare that he has a new “pastor problem”.
That has enraged Obama supporter Wayne Besen, founder of Truth Wins Out, a New York organisation which campaigns against the “ex-gay” movement in the church, which insists that homosexuality is nothing more than a sinful lifestyle choice.
He told The Sunday Telegraph: “I think Obama’s got another pastor problem. There’s a tendency to surround himself with these anti-gay preachers which is very offensive. These are people who believe that we are sinful and sick and that you can pray away the gay.
“The notion that Obama can’t find a pastor in America who doesn’t have these outrageous extreme beliefs is baffling to many of us.”
Campaigners say that by talking to those with the views of Bishop Jakes, the president sends the wrong message to his gay supporters who had hoped for a new tone from the White House after eight years in which George W. Bush used wedge issues like opposition to gay marriage to drum up conservative votes.
Mr Besen said: “He’s giving credibility to people who are virulently anti-gay and promoting discrimination. The president has given these homophobes his stamp of approval. He has given them a platform. By elevating these extreme elements, he’s hurting our community.” He suggested that Mr Obama should consult Bishop Gene Robinson, the openly gay head of the American episcopal church, whose ordination sparked a split in the worldwide Anglican union.
“Why not have Gene Robinson in that five?” he said. “There’s a person of courage and integrity and the kind of international leader that Obama should look towards. It’s very disappointing.”