Religion issue hurting Obama with Indiana cafe patrons
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?”
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.
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.)