Philly black clergy group endorses Obama

March 13, 2008 1:37:11 PM PDT
A leading black clergy group endorsed Sen. Barack Obama on Thursday in his hard-fought bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. The Black Clergy of Philadelphia and Vicinity voted overwhelmingly to endorse Obama in his race against Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.

"The folks in our churches are overwhelmingly supporting Barack Obama," said the Rev. Ellis I. Washington, the group's president. "We can do no less."

The group's support transcends racial lines, he said. "Obviously, we're proud of him as an African-American leader," Washington said. "We (also) feel there's a depth, a quality to his leadership that's just exciting to us."

Washington cited Obama's appeal to young voters and his status as a man of faith in making the endorsement. The organization represents about 200 churches in the Philadelphia area.

Bill Clinton was a popular figure in Philadelphia's black community during his presidency, but the group had no problem supporting Obama over Hillary Clinton.

"There's maybe a sense of ... that was then and this is now," Washington said.

The president of another black clergy group, the Philadelphia Council of Clergy, supports Clinton but the issue was not put to a vote of the membership.

"It is not my intention to try to force (a position) on anyone," the Rev. Anthony Floyd said. "I expect some would (support Clinton) and some would not."

Obama and Clinton are dueling for the 158 delegates at stake in the Pennsylvania primary on April 22.