Image: Barack Obama, Jeremiah Wright
AP
Sen. Barack Obama, left, is shown here with his pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, March 10, 2005.
updated 3/26/2008 3:07:07 PM ET 2008-03-26T19:07:07

The Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the controversial former pastor of U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama, has canceled plans to speak at three services at a church in Houston, Texas, on Sunday, the church's pastor said.

The Rev. Marcus Cosby of Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church told Houston television station KTRK and the Houston Chronicle newspaper that safety concerns had prompted Wright's decision.

Cosby told the Chronicle that Wright cited three reasons for canceling: "the safety of the institution to which he has been invited; the safety of his family, which has been placed in harm's way; and for his own safety."

Wright also canceled his appearance Tuesday in Florida at a Tampa-area church. That church said it asked Wright to cancel his scheduled three-day appearance because of security questions.

Over the years, Wright has preached fiery sermons to his predominantly black congregation in which he shouted "God damn America" for its treatment of minorities. He has said the U.S. government invented AIDS to destroy "people of color." He also suggested that U.S. policies in the Middle East and elsewhere were partly responsible for the 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.

Videos of the remarks have circulated widely on the Internet and news programs.

Video: Obama on pastor's comments In a highly publicized speech last week, Obama sharply condemned Wright's remarks and the preacher's refusal to acknowledge progress in race relations. But the Illinois senator refused to repudiate his longtime spiritual mentor, saying he could no more disown Wright than he could disown his white grandmother.

On Tuesday, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Obama'a opponent in the Democratic presidential primaries, said at a news conference in Pennysylvania that she would have parted company with a minister who talked about America the way that Wright did.

Wright had been expected to be in North Texas over the weekend to be honored by the Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth, but it was unclear whether he would still be attending.

"His schedule is pending," Joan Harrell, minister of communications for Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, where Wright was pastor for nearly four decades, told The Dallas Morning News for its Tuesday online editions. The newspaper said that she wouldn't elaborate.

Harrell didn't immediately return a phone call from The Associated Press on Wednesday.

"I think we have taken Dr. Wright out of context with sound bites," Cosby said. "After all these years, I am not going to kick him to the curb over sound bites."

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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