Pastor at Obama's Easter sermon criticizes 'captains of the religious right'

(Photo: Reuters / Yuri Gripas)U.S. President Barack Obama walks out with Rev. Luis Leon after attending Easter service at St. John's Episcopal Church in Washington March 31, 2013. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

The Episcopal Church priest who preached at the Easter service attended by President Barack Obama says he stands by statements criticizing "captains of the religious right."

"It's in there. People will do what they want with it," the Rev. Dr. Luis Leon told the Huffington Post on Monday.

The Rev. Leon is rector of St. John's Church, which serves an Episcopal Church congregation just across the street from the White House.

During the sermon the Rev. Leon was discussing the biblical passage just after Jesus' resurrection when Mary Magdalene encountered Jesus. In the narrative Jesus tells Mary not to hold on to him.

"We often want things to go back to the way things used to be, before "work got difficult and faith got confused, and life got more confusing," but when we dwell on the "if only" of life we forget that "God addresses us in the now," the Rev. Leon said.

"As Jesus told Mary not to hold on to the past, "You cannot go back," he said.

"It drives me crazy when the captains of the religious right are always calling us back … for blacks to be back in the back of the bus … for women to be back in the kitchen … for immigrants to be back on their side of the border," the Rev. Leon said in the sermon, according to press notes released by the White House.

"The message of Easter is about the power of love over loveless power."

Rev. Leon delivered the benediction at the President's second term inauguration in January after another pastor stepped down following criticism of his views opposing homosexuality. The Episcopal Church ordains openly gay priests and has temporarily approved a rite of blessing for same-sex couples.

Leon said the sermon's audio should be available on the church website later today.

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