President Obama's aides are roaming across Washington, DC on one of their most politically fraught missions. With Easter only a few days away, Obama, as both Fox News and the Washington Times are reporting, has not attended church on Sunday, something that the right is predictably enough adding to its catalog of complaints about Obama's supposed war on religious values, whether it's stem cell research or abortion. Indeed, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich on Tuesday branded the entire administration as "intensely secular" and "anti-religious"--as though the White House's mission should be to promote religion.
It used to be that when it came to attending church American presidents had an easy choice. They would worship at the U.S. Capitol; Thomas Jefferson rode on horseback to the Capitol for services. That's no longer an option. Now the American president has a retinue on the order of Louis XIV the Sun King at Versailles. Ronald Reagan, citing the disruptive nature of a presidential visit, did not attend church regularly, something that conservatives have always preferred to overlook.
George W. Bush was different. By this time in his presidency, Fox breathlessly informs us, Bush, in contrast to Obama, had already attended church several times. And golly gee, look at all the good it did him!
Some of the top candidates that Obama's aides are looking at include Foundry United Methodist Church and the Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church. Obama is said to be weighing various considerations, including the political fallout of joining either a predominantly white or African-American church.
But the blunt fact is that Obama would be politically better off making a choice quickly or face mounting claims that his piety is simply a sham.