(Photo: Reuters/Yuri Gripas)
At an Easter Sunday service attended by President Barack Obama and his family, the pastor in his sermon accused politically conservative Christians of being misogynist, racist and anti-immigrant.
"It drives me crazy when the captains of the religious right are always calling us back ... for blacks to be back in the back of the bus ... for women to be back in the kitchen ... for immigrants to be back on their side of the border," the Rev. Luis León preached at St. John's Episcopal Church, according to a pooled press report.
The church is just blocks away from the White House and is sometimes referred to as the "church of the presidents." Obama was sitting in the pews with his wife, Michelle, and his daughters, Sasha and Malia. They do not attend services at St. John's on a regular basis, but they have attended the church on many occasions.
The criticism of conservative Christians was worked into an Easter sermon on the resurrection. Before the critique, León was telling his audience to move forward and not dwell on the past. Jesus told Mary, he said, not to hold on to the past: "you cannot go back."
In what could have been intended as another rebuke of conservative Christians, León added, "the message of Easter is about the power of love over loveless power."
Mark Tooley, president of The Institute on Religion & Democracy, criticized León for using his Easter sermon to deliver "cheap shots" and a political message.
"It's sad when clergy egregiously politicize worship, especially on an important holy day at an historic church that used to symbolize non partisan unity," Tooley wrote.
León also delivered the benediction at Obama's inauguration ceremony in January. He was chosen after evangelical pastor Louie Giglio of Passion City Church, Atlanta, withdrew from the position after gay rights groups criticized a 20-year-old sermon in which he described homosexuality as sinful.