Religion issue hurting Obama with Indiana cafe patrons

April 30, 2008

SHELBYVILLE, Ind. – Barack Obama can talk about his childhood years in Kansas and upbringing by his white Midwestern grandparents, but if voters at one small-town Indiana cafe are any indication, he has a long way to go to convince them he represents heartland America.

“Obama has great ideas but his background scares me,” said Chris Leighton, 60, a secretary having lunch at the Chaperral Cafe in Shelbyville, in southeast Indiana. “Everyone talks about him being a Muslim and having ties to terrorism, but how do people really find out?” img_1530_1.JPG

The incorrect belief that the Illinois senator is a Muslim was shared by half a dozen others in the restaurant — a sign that dirty campaign tactics and Internet innuendo has taken root among some voters in Indiana, the next state to vote.

Construction worker Ron Debaun, 61, said he hadn’t yet decided whether he would support Obama or Hillary Clinton in Indiana’s May 6 primary, noting they both “have good ideas.” But he’s leaning toward Clinton.

What doesn’t he like about Obama?

“His Muslim ties,” said Debaun.

Why does he think Obama is a Muslim?

“Let’s just say that he admits it himself,” he said.

Retired locksmith Leslie Hedman, 61, said he doesn’t like any of the three candidates — Clinton, Obama, or Republican John McCain – because none are committed Christians.

“Obama is a Muslim,” he said. Where did he hear that?

“He said he was but then he said he’s not,” said Hedman.

Ironically enough, many of the lunchtime crowd said they were also turned off by Obama’s ties to Rev. Jeremiah Wright – the former pastor of Obama’s Christian church in Chicago, Trinity United Church of Christ.

“I definitely don’t like Obama because of the mess with him and his pastor. I don’t think he’s been honest about it,” said Candace Demmin, 37, as she had lunch with her mom.

“How can you go to a church for 20 years and not heard your minister say something off-color? Either he’s heard it and is lying about it, or he’s lying about going to church as much as he does,” said Demmin. “In which case he’s not the Christian he says he is.”

Obama strongly denounced his former pastor on Tuesday and called his racially charged comments “appalling.”

And if Obama’s Muslim ties and Christian pastor aren’t bad enough, his atheism is the last straw.

“A person who doesn’t believe in anything? I don’t want anything to do with him,” said cafe owner and Clinton supporter Shirley Bailey, 70. “He says he won’t take an oath on the Bible, he won’t salute the American flag. That doesn’t sit well with me.”

Obama was sworn in at the U.S. Senate with his hand on a Bible. He stopped wearing an American flag lapel pin — standard issue for U.S. politicians — saying that a pin on the chest matters less than what’s in the heart.

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage.

Photo credit: Reuters/Andrea Hopkins (Shirley Bailey, owner of the Chaperral Cafe in Shelbyville, Indiana, said she can’t support Barack Obama in Indiana’s May 6 primary because of his religious views. Many of her customers agreed.)


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I feel so sad that people who consider themselves Christians are so willing to believe the worst about a man they obviously know nothing about. If they were really that concerned about his faith, and about the character of our next president, wouldn’t they take the time to do even the slightest bit of research? This isn’t rocket science.
My Lutheran faith teaches me that you judge a person by their fruit. Obama has spent his entire career trying to help the least of these. That’s his passion in life. It must be really painful. Most people would just walk away from this dark side of human nature that is exhibiting itself in our small towns. So much for Norman Rockwell.

Posted by Merri | Report as abusive

Now that Barack has repudiated him, should we start digging up negative stories about Wright on

Posted by Chill | Report as abusive

You cannot take 20 years and a presidential campaign to suddenly realize your pastor is a wingnut.

It’s obvious Obama is throwing him under the bus now to look good.

Thank goodness the good people of Indiana see this.
I am sick of Obama and his fake “change”.


Posted by Michelle | Report as abusive

Can anybody say racists?

Posted by Janice | Report as abusive

What a joke! I do not know you can do anything about these people. They are dragging down this country to the lowest level possible. Truely sad.

Posted by Danny | Report as abusive

As a hoosier, I am not shocked at how ridiculous the answers/responses from these people are. Shelbyville is hillbilly central anyhow. Why not interview in the “brighter” regions eg: Indianapolis, Muncie, Bloomington, Lafayette etc.

Posted by Hoosiers are dumb | Report as abusive

In Pennsylvania we know that Obama is a fraud. He was arrogant and cocky when asked issue questions rather than give an answer. Hillary did the opposite –she actually campaigned for her votes, earned them. Obama took his fame for granted, but it backfired. Hope you voters see through him as well. Send Hillary to Washington and get our nation back on track.

Posted by victoria schmitt | Report as abusive

These comments are representative of the intellectual laziness of Americans and the disgusting way they applaud themselves for being uninformed. These people at that cafe should be ashamed that they refuse to read the paper, to find out the FACTS, and instead judge a candidate without having the facts. Getting educated on Obama’s beliefs would require some effort, so instead they get a few emails that justify their racial biases (“Oh Barack is a Muslim, don’t cha know??” And then they boast about their ignorance. It’s truly sad. It would have been helpful for a reporter to correct them, (e.g. “Actually, he is a Christian and he was sworn in with his hand on the Bible”) but then they are so stupid, they would probably argue with the reporter. We deserve the President we get.

Posted by Elizabeth | Report as abusive

I’m offended by this article, it makes all people from Indiana look like bumbling idiots.

Posted by Austin | Report as abusive

This pretty much sums it up. As a kid from a small town in Texas, I never thought that I could grow up to be an elitist. I am started to realize that the majority of “normal” Americans are incredibly misinformed and quite frankly ignorant. Part of me hopes that McCain wins so he can take these peoples employer sponsored insurance away. Maybe then they will start actually paying attention.

This wide spread ignorance is what is most destructive to America. This is an embarrassment to this country.What a shame.

Posted by chris | Report as abusive

Obama is not electable. I have a few questions for the Obama-bots and Clinton-bashers: 1. Name the most significant thing that Obama has actually accomplished besides giving speeches. 2. How much jello must Obama have in his spine to sit for 15 years in the pews of a maniac like Wright who believes that AIDS was a US govt. plot, that Farrakhan is a great hero, etc, etc? 3. Why did Obama vote “present” on each controversial issue? 4. What is the most difficult situation that Obama has ever faced in his adult life before the presidential campaign? 5. Name one major state Obama has won besides his home state.

Hillary is an absolutely remarkable woman, in my opinion, though she is not perfect. Obama is a perfect piece of plastic with no content. Americans will be able to see the difference by November. (The polls already show Hillary ahead of McCain 9 points, but Obama even.) Americans previously elected “nice clean guy” Bush (with no content of character), and look what happened.

McCain has a very strong character, and there is no way that Obama could stand up to him.

Posted by Art | Report as abusive

How can someone be a muslim and athiest and a Christian at the same time? You call this news it racism of the day. it’s hatefull insanity and Why America is such a mess.

Posted by Kate Cooper | Report as abusive

Oh my god. How can people be this ignorant. What they will never believe is that there are good people with good values who practice many faiths or no faith at all. People can be good for the sake of being good without a church managing there life and the way they think.

Posted by D. Woods | Report as abusive

Wow, this story saddens me.

I didn’t raise my right hand and swear or affirm to defend the Constitution against foreign and domestic enemies only for fellow African Americans when I served active Army during the 90s. I’m sure you would agree that it would have been really easy for me to devolve into something like that, based on an incident involving 2 White men throwing trash and yelling “nigger” at me from their car when I was first stationed at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

I rose above that incident, acknowledging that not ALL White people are that ignorant. People who hide behind incorrect information (read: prejudice) and “Internet innuendo” disappoint me, and don’t show what Americans are truly capable of achieving.

I’m truly saddened by this article.

Thank you.

Posted by Chuck | Report as abusive

If this is a true depiction of the average voter in Indiana, We’re Doomed!

Posted by PC | Report as abusive

what is wrong with small town people. The ones that vote for Hiliary are so far removed from everything. they will cling to tabloid reports as gospel because it feeds their fear of moving into a differ era. Obama is not a muslim, he never said he was!!! and as a previous reader suggested, it is easy for people to sit back and judge him, when they are not accountable to anyone for their associates. what would you do if you were in his shoes? Are the hypocrites saying that do not associate with anyone whose views differ from their own? are they saying they do not have friends or family that have said something they may not be politcally correct? yes it is easy to not be in the spotlight and rain down judgement on someone esle. he has handled himself very well especially campaigning against three front, the Clintons, the media, and the GOP. Can you honestly say the other two candidates could stand up to the pressure and scrunity he is under and still be ahead? I seriously doubt it.

Posted by Lacy | Report as abusive

Obama is full of it. He’s a smooth talker, pure and simple. Worse, though, is that he’d rally screw up the American system that has made us the greatest, strongest country in the world.

Posted by CXZ | Report as abusive

It’s your responsibility as a journalist to correct those people. How offensive that they are so incorrect about Obama.

Posted by Fred Truth | Report as abusive

Welcome to Indiana, America, where some of the least informed, most hypocritically sensitive, lowest common denominators live. The campaigns have been going on for over a year and these people still think Obama is a Muslim (as if that was really any more extreme than being a “Christian”)?? WAKE UP!

“‘Obama has great ideas but his background scares me,” said Chris Leighton, 60, a secretary having lunch at the Chaperral Cafe in Shelbyville, in southeast Indiana. “Everyone talks about him being a Muslim and having ties to terrorism, but how do people really find out?’”


Just some advice from one “Christian” to another.

Posted by Alan Greenspan | Report as abusive

too bad these alleged Christians are so stupid. Every KKKarl Rove trick really works on them….Obama is a muslim? I am shocked no one stated he’s the antiChrist in revelations. these are some very sorry citizens. and poor excuses for Christianity

P.S. His atheism? What does that mean? That is just untrue.

Posted by Fred Truth | Report as abusive

Could these people any dumber?

Posted by NO | Report as abusive

As a nation populated with people as ignorant as these goobers, we totally got what we deserved with G.W. Bush.

Posted by Nordstrom | Report as abusive

What I find disheartening about so many of the reactions is that they are driven by fear, misinformation, rumor among other things. They lead me to believe that too many people in the United States are profoundly misinformed, do not read, or are incapable of finding out information on their own and rely on too few sources.

Obama is not a Muslim; he is not an atheist; he has denounced the false statements of his pastor regarding the AIDS epidemic.

Have any of these people actually read Obama’s book? Have any of them actually read or heard his speech about his pastor?

The fact that I am going into a voting booth having read about the candidates, knowing their positions on health insurance, the Iraq War, the economy, the environment, the oil crisis becomes annihilated by uninformed voters.

The Romans used an incredibly apt phrase to describe the floating innuendos that seem to run rampant in this campaign: “fama est”(there is a rumor)

Posted by John T. Marohn | Report as abusive

I’m not an Obama supporter myself, but religion certainly isn’t the reason for that. Fair is fair and there are two things that trouble me about this situation: 1) The continual misinformation about his Muslim ties. 2) The fact that if he was Muslim, that it would be problematic for some individuals. The first amendment of our constitution is about freedom. Soldiers fought and died for those freedoms, religion being one of them. I feel that it’s a double standard for individuals to want a president that stands for the constitution, yet only if s/he belongs to a certain faith. And I don’t make these statements to be argumentative. I just hope to bring another perspective to those who find this conflicting.

Posted by mm.a | Report as abusive

I live in Indiana and Shelbyville is a small town that is known for it’s racism and hate of black people. If you are looking for ANY OBAMA supporters there, than I can guarantee you we won’t find one. They have no interest in even finding out who and what Obama stands for. The would vote for any White person before Obama and it has nothing to do with religon and Everything to do with race. Black people are not welcome in Shelbyville and are harassed when driving through there. It’s sad but that is where our country is in 2008!!!

Posted by Erica | Report as abusive

He does not share the values of mid America and Indianans and Americans recognize this. And rhetoric is not going to do it. Actions are. And unfortunately, his actions speak even less of any idea what Mid America is about. Wright, Ayers, his wife’s comments and his own in both San franscico and calling his Grandmother a “typical white person.” They say very loudly he has no idea what the majority of Americans are looking for in the President and that his inexperience combined with his campaign based on “unity” is only rhetoric.

Posted by Core Democrat | Report as abusive

Hussein Obama says his Muslim dad left when he was two. He fails to mention that his step-father was also a Muslim and was in his life for a considerable time when his mom re-married. I also seems when he registered for school he registered as a Muslim. Too many maybe this and maybe that in his life. Reverend Wright who seems more wrong than right. I do not trust him. I will either vote for McCain or write-in Al Gore if the Democratic party nominates this completely unknown quantity.

Posted by RJ Remeika | Report as abusive

When will the media step up to the plate and be honest with citizens of this country and publish the truth about the candidates and the false lies. I am sadden by their lack of coming forward to clarify misinformation. Good candidates can’t win in this system we have today. It seems obvious that the media is a business that is concerned about their bottom line profits more than they are about correcting wrongs of ‘swiftboating’ politics. Shame on you. You are citizens, too. Shine light on the truth!

Posted by John | Report as abusive

“And if Obama’s Muslim ties and Christian pastor aren’t bad enough, his atheism is the last straw.”

Obama doesn’t HAVE any Muslim ties. Perhaps the word ‘alleged’ or ‘claimed’ should make an appearance somewhere in that sentence?

It shows the foolish ignorance of the people who denounce Sen. Obama as a Muslim and then say he is having difficult with his Christian Pastor, then turn around and say he is atheist and believes in nothing.
First I know many Muslim friends and they are as good and decent as any one, maybe more than most. Second, in my 60+ years I have not seen anyone stand up in church to tell the Pastor, ‘Your sermon is wrong’. And third, I am a firm believer in the seperation of church and state. Would any of the “Indiana Cafe Patrons” want the Pope or any other religious leader to be President?
I could vote for Clinton, McCain, or Obama with no problem at all. This is the first time we have had a reasonable choice for president.

Twisted minds,

I can see the handiwork of some, who have made them self
modern day prophets. The idea of influencing others by use of the Media and reruns of negative publicity all around the globe speaks for it self.The method of arranging facts, speculation or questions by people in the media can help others with evil intentions exsecute their “just cause”. Here is the problem, can the MEDIA ever get past BIGOTRY. The enemy within is greater than those you can see with your natural eyes, for where a man treasure is there his heart will be also.

There is an expression that ignorance is bliss. It is clear from this article that ignorance is prevelant…but there is nothing bliss about it.

Sad. Just Sad.

Posted by Sam | Report as abusive

Good Lord!! Are these people serious??? Is Shelbyville located under a rock, or what? Where do they get their news??
…And hopefully Hillary won’t try and capitalize on their ignorance for her own gains, again…that game is getting very old and is very unbecoming, for anyone! (You would think that the attacks would be reserved for the Republican nominee and not against someone in their own party so as to preserve the integrity of it!…um, Hillary? you there? hint hint…….)
Obama, you’re a good man to stick to the high road! I hope you become our president.

Posted by Loryn | Report as abusive

After watching Rev WRight at the press club reiterate and repeat his views on the govt. giving aids to Black folks, America engaging in terrorism which is why it got 911, approving of Farrakkhan and then hearing Obama throw Wright under the bus, I’m done with Obama.

He is a hypocrite and I believe his pastor when he said yesterday that obama will say what he has to say as a politician to be elected. Obama told us that when we saw the snippets of wRight, that we were taking him out of context and that he couldn’t disown him, then Wright appears and says the same thing and now Obama is offended and angered and denounces him.

These are the same things that Wright was seen saying last month. We don’t know this man and he cannot be entrusted with the presidency. At least we know Hillary Clinton and with all of her faults, she is a fighter and she loves this country and our veterans.

Sadly, I don’t know enough about Obama and what I do know, doesn’t sit well with me.

Posted by star | Report as abusive

What do people want to see in a candidate? When he/she says what he/she is and stands for and did and will do, no one believes it. Yet when the media feeds info from typical election fever zealots, they believe. I ask, WHEN WILL U BELIEVE what one has to proffer as Prez? The notion that one is this or that starts a vicious doubt circle…bad. Then we have a candidate who having been married to a former prez who screwed up on NAFTA and gas tax among other things, playing dirty politics to get power, HOW CAN U BELIEVE THAT SHE WONT LET U DOWN ONCE SHE IS IN THERE? Humility has no place in this race and neither are suspicions.

Posted by trups | Report as abusive

I would like each debate and speaking engagement begin with the Star-Spangled Banner being played and also with the candidates pledging allegiance to the American flag.

Posted by RJ Remeika | Report as abusive

I agree, some scary people. Especially the one who thought Obama has some great ideas. Now that is scary. Obama would finish the job Jimmy Carter started in taking our country back into the toilet with all his terrorist-appeasing commie ideas.

Posted by Jon | Report as abusive

This is why most Americans get the government they deserve.

Posted by JSFox | Report as abusive

I always wondered exactly how ignorant so called “working class” Americans were. If the opinions expressed by the people in this article are anywhere close to what half of “working class” America thinks, then the country deserves McCain. It honestly boggles my mind. How close-minded, and absolutely ignorant do you have to be to make completely asinine comments like that? Obama by the way has won Virginia, Wisconsin, and Colorado which all tend to be larger somewhat purple states. Clinton’s argument holds little water when you consider that California, New York, Mass. would never go Republican. Also, look at Hillary’s record. She votes present just as much as Obama does.

Posted by Luke | Report as abusive

These ignorant comments by the good folks at the local diner put to rest a lie. Obama isn’t connecting with these voters
because he is an elitist. They aren’t allowing him to connect because of their bigotry.

Posted by Ron Johnson | Report as abusive

Let us asume that we are better than the candidates currently running for the presidency, who have all fallin short of proving they are wrong to try. I will then be glad to see who, or which one of us will graduate
in complaning about our dreams and complexities.

And this is why Democracy is the worst form of government (besides all the others). — paraphrased from Winston Churchill, (non-fictional) Prime Minister of England.

“Please tell me these people don’t vote.” — Jed Bartlett, fictional President of the United States from NBC’s “West Wing.”

I think Obama is still going to win the Democratic nomination (his lead is too strong) and win the gneral election (the Republicans are too weak).


Shame on you for writing this story. You managed to find 6 complete fools who apparently think Obama is a Muslim terrorist who is conspiring with Jeremiah Wright to take over our country–and you now attempt to parlay their nonsense into widespread hysteria by writing a story about them. Pathetic.

Posted by T.E.L. | Report as abusive

“How do people really find out?”

Well, they COULD use this thing called the internet or follow the news …

And Art, why are you guys posting the same messages everywhere? I’ve read that EXACT message on more than one site now, so what’s the point of spamming? Trying to join with JakeD, RAT-The or jacksmith?

Posted by Joe | Report as abusive

Good reporting takes the time to point out the truth rather than reporting the concerns of voters as if they were statements of fact.

For example when the reporter writes,

“And if Obama’s Muslim ties and Christian pastor aren’t bad enough, his atheism is the last straw.”

it can easily be inferred that the article is claiming that Obama is an atheist, which he is not.

Furthermore, the American flag lapel pin is not “standard issue for U.S. politicians,” as the demagogues who are often interviewed about them glaringly point out by not wearing them themselves.

It would be extremely refreshing if, rather than simply parroting the ignorant regurgitations of misinformation that the voters have swallowed from the Clinton campaign and their surrogates, the mainstream media took the time and effort to report the truth.

Posted by Jeff Brock | Report as abusive

I think it’s really sad that these are the types of people who are deciding the next leader of our country. It is simply amazing to me that some people cannot see that we finally have a chance to choice a president who will bring America together, stand up to special interests and bring the kind of change to Washington that we so desperately need. The whole world is watching what decision we will make this time. I think they are ready to give America a second chance. The question is, are we ready to give ourselves a second chance by electing an intelligent, inspiring, and trustworthy leader? I would like to think that we are smart enough to know better than to elect a leader (yet again) that has already been caught lying to us, just to try to get herself elected. Let’s make America a beacon of light and hope in this world once again by electing the brilliant Barack Obama.

Posted by Ami | Report as abusive

One month ago Obama REFUSED to separate from Reverand Wright and claimed that he could not do so….Reverand Wright was as good as a member of the family and it would also be the equivalent of denouncing black people!!! Now, when the truth begins to surface and cost Obama a PAYCHECK (his seat in the Senate and the presidential election) he is more than willing to denounce Reverand Wright.

Posted by DCD | Report as abusive

1. Barack Obama is not a Muslim. Even if he were, it does not make him a terrorist.
2. Barack Obama was sworn into the US Senate with his hand on the BIBLE. Go find the pictures!
3. Barack Obama has written more substantial legislation as a US Senator and as an Illinois State Senator than Hillary Clinton could even dream up.
4. Wearing a flag pin DOES NOT make you a patriot. George Bush can wear a flag pin until pigs fly and he will never be a patriot.
5. How could this man have been elected to the US Senate if he indeed had ties to terrorist. BUT NO ONE POINTS OUT BILL CLINTON PARDONED TERRORISTS that blew up a building in New York killing innocent people.

Let me get this straight… people would seriously consider electing a woman with ties to a suicide, Sandy Barry who stole documents pertaining to the Clinton White House years, lies about her Foreign Policy experience!?!?! I just don’t get it.

It’s uneducated and uninformed people like these supposed Christians that got us in the mess with Bush being elected in the first place. They got the government they deserve!

Posted by Wendy, Denver | Report as abusive