TIME Report, White House Reaction Raise More Questions About Obama's Church Hunt

A White House denial about Obama's church search raises more questions than answers.

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By Dan Gilgoff, God & Country

TIME's Amy Sullivan is standing by her story about the first family giving up plans to join a Washington-area church in favor of worshiping at Camp David's Evergreen Chapel, despite a White House denial. But both Sullivan and the White House are hedging their bets.

In a statement yesterday, the White House implied that the TIME report was erroneous:

The President and First Family continue to look for a church home. They have enjoyed worshipping at Camp David and several other congregations over the months, and will choose a church at the time that is best for their family.

The White House didn't come flat out and say the story was wrong. It did, however, contradict the central assertion of Sullivan's report: that President Obama had given up his family's church search. The search, the White House says, goes on, and the Obamas still plan to choose a new church home. But by declining to deny Sullivan's report outright and by ambiguously pledging that the Obamas "will choose a church at the time that is best for their family," the White House is giving itself some wiggle room.

Sullivan, meanwhile, is standing by her story, arguing that "nothing in the [White House] statement contradicts my reporting." Huh? She reported that Obama was giving up his church search:

Now, in an unexpected move, Obama has told White House aides that instead of joining a congregation in Washington, he will follow in George W. Bush's footsteps and make his primary place of worship Evergreen Chapel, the nondenominational church at Camp David.

It turns out that Sullivan—a friend of God & Country—is hedging her bet, too. In a follow-up post reacting to the White House statement, she tweaks her story, saying it's about Obama's decision to attend church services at Camp David's chapel for the time being. There's a big difference between treating Evergreen Chapel as his new spiritual home in Washington, as her initial post did, and considering it a spiritual way station, as her follow-up post does.

The bottom line is that we don't know how close the first family is to joining a new church.

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