WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama attended Easter services at an Episcopal church near the White House and heard a sermon that criticized "captains of the religious right" for holding some people back.
The sermon by Rev. Dr. Luis Leon at St. John's Church was based on the Gospel of John and the resurrection of Jesus. Leon said Jesus told Mary not to hold on to the past — "You cannot go back" — and the reverend said the religious right should focus on "the way things can be in the now."
"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 on their side of the border," Leon said. He said the message of Easter was about the "proclamation of victory, the victory of powerful love over loveless power."
Before Sunday's Mass began, the president, first lady Michelle Obama and daughters Sasha and Malia took the short walk from the White House to St. John's.
Obama was greeted by several parishioners with handshakes and smiles as the church members were returning to their seats from Holy Communion, which the first family also joined.
A pew nine rows back from the altar at St. John's carries a small brass plaque designating it as "The President's Pew." Church history claims that every president since James Madison has visited. The Obamas attended Easter services there in 2009 and 2012.