By Sandhya Somashekhar, The Washington Post
The conservative church that Michele Bachmann officially left days before launching her presidential campaign said Friday that the Minnesota congresswomanâ€™s decision came at their request.
â€œThe impetus came from the church,â€ said Joel Hochmuth, a spokesman for the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, the denominational organization that includes the church. â€œFor the pastorâ€™s sake, he wanted to know where he stood with the family.â€
Bachmann (R) had stopped attending Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church two years ago but did not formally end her membership until June 21, a date first reported by CNN. The timing raised questions because it came shortly before she formally kicked off her presidential campaign in Waterloo, Iowa, and because the church has taken controversial stands on Catholicism and homosexuality.
Candidates have often come under fire for the religious company they keep. During the 2008 presidential election, Barack Obama was forced to disavow his affiliation with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright after videos emerged of Wrightâ€™s more controversial sermons, which included statements critical of the United States and what many considered to be slurs against white people.
A spokeswoman for Bachmannâ€™s congressional office said she now attends a non-denominational church in the Stillwater, Minn., area but declined to specify which one.
â€œAs the familyâ€™s schedule has allowed, they have attended their current church throughout the past two years,â€ spokeswoman Becky Rogness said in an e-mail.
The Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod is a conservative branch of Lutheranism that has about 390,000 adherents across the country. It has been criticized in part because it holds that the Catholic pope is the Antichrist. Bachmann has said emphatically that she does not share that view, and church officials recently told the Atlantic that it is not a central tenet of the faith.
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