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Michael Pfleger
Rev. Michael Pfleger (2015).jpg
Pfleger in 2015
Michael Louis Pfleger

(1949-05-22) May 22, 1949 (age 74)
Alma mater Loyola University Chicago, Archbishop Quigley Preparatory Seminary, University of Saint Mary of the Lake.
Occupation Priest, social activist
Photograph- Coretta Scott King receiving award from Fr. Pfleger and St. Sabina (14726475336)
Coretta Scott King receiving award from Fr. Michael Pfleger (right)

Michael Louis Pfleger (born May 22, 1949) is an American Catholic priest and social activist located in Chicago. Since 1981, he has been pastor of St. Sabina Catholic Church, a Black parish in Chicago's Auburn Gresham neighborhood.

He has been the subject of a number of controversies, mostly involving his public comments and activities related to his pro-Black stance on social issues. He was suspended on occasion for such incidents.

..... All were found to be unsubstantiated by the Archdiocese of Chicago.



Photograph- A young Fr. Pfleger in the rectory (14747214374)
Fr. Pfleger circa 1980

A German American from the South Side of Chicago, Pfleger attended Archbishop Quigley Preparatory Seminary South, Loyola University and the University of Saint Mary of the Lake. He was ordained a priest for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago on May 14, 1975.

Parish ministry

Since 1981, he has been pastor of the mostly African American parish of Saint Sabina, a Catholic church in Chicago's Auburn Gresham neighborhood. His uninterrupted tenure in just one parish is normally unheard of in a diocese where pastors usually serve for only six to twelve years. When he was appointed to his present position, at age 31, he became the youngest pastor in the Chicago archdiocese. Under his leadership, Saint Sabina has established an Employment Resource Center, a Social Service Center and also an Elders home.

Social activism

Fr. Michael Pfleger, Rev. Joseph Lowery, Min. Louis Farrakhan and C.T. Vivian conversing in the Rectory dining room (14752023375)
Fr. Michael Pfleger, Rev. Joseph Lowery, Min. Louis Farrakhan and C.T. Vivian
St Sabina Church Chicago 2012
St. Sabina Church, Auburn Gresham, Chicago

Pfleger's social activism has brought him media coverage throughout Chicago and beyond. He has often collaborated and associated with African American religious, political and social activists such as Jeremiah Wright, Joseph Lowery, Jesse Jackson, Harry Belafonte, Cornel West and Louis Farrakhan.

Anti-drug campaigns

..... His parish also campaigned for the removal of tobacco and alcohol billboards from their neighborhood. When billboard owners refused to cooperate in the early 1990s, he and others decided to climb ladders and deface the signs. He was charged with destruction of private property, but was acquitted by a jury in 1991.

In September 1997, the Chicago City Council voted 44–1 to eliminate tobacco and alcohol billboards from selected areas in Chicago. Pfleger described the decision as "a tremendous victory for the children of Chicago, for our neighborhoods, especially black and Hispanic neighborhoods."

Jerry Springer and Howard Stern

Pfleger has become one of the best known critics of The Jerry Springer Show, a controversial television program which was videotaped in Chicago. Believing the program to be immoral, he and his parishioners began picketing outside the show's studios in 1991. By 1998, he had organized a boycott of the show's advertisers. "[Springer is] glorifying violence every day.... ..... This is not normal behavior", he declared. The show's producers eventually claimed that they would attempt to decrease the number of on-stage fights on the program.

Pfleger later targeted radio personality Howard Stern in response to Stern's late 2005 advertising campaign to promote his move to satellite radio. Pfleger specifically objected to a pair of Stern's billboards in Chicago that featured an image of the black power salute with the caption "Let freedom ring. ..... Pfleger told the media, "As we prepare to celebrate Dr. King's birthday, we will not tolerate this kind of disrespect. We should not have to tolerate it in our communities." Viacom, the owner of the billboards, eventually removed the signs due to the protests.

Pfleger received criticism from Stern's fans, who questioned Pfleger's commitment to freedom of speech. Jesse Jackson came to Pfleger's defense, saying, "There are two freedoms at issue here. They have the right to advertise, and we have the right to resist it in our community. Sometimes freedom is challenged by a community's tolerance level. I think Father Pfleger is a man of great dignity and has an acute social conscience. And he deserves our support."

Billboards against disrespectful rappers

In 2007, Pfleger and his Saint Sabina parishioners erected twenty billboards across Chicago with the words "Stop Listening To Trash", followed by a list of "disrespectful rappers", which included Fat Joe, Lil Wayne, Nelly, 50 Cent, G-Unit, Twista, Snoop Dogg and Ludacris. Pfleger said in a press release, "If we are going to end the violence and disrespect of women, we must fight every form of negativity, including the music industry." He explained to WMAQ-TV's Alex Perez, "When you disrespect women and you continue to demean a community or race by names and by language, that's unacceptable. ... We can kill with our words."

Pfleger and Jeremiah Wright

On March 28, 2008, Pfleger invited Jeremiah Wright, former pastor of then-U.S. Senator and presidential candidate Barack Obama, to deliver a blessing at Saint Sabina during a visit by poet Maya Angelou. Wright had been criticized by Obama, academics and political pundits on the left and right for several controversial sermons, but Pfleger came to Wright's defense. "I wanted him to come here so he could see that people really stand with him and support him while he's under all this attack. America, unfortunately, has been really cheated of knowing the real Dr. Wright," said Pfleger.

In a statement on Saint Sabina's website, Pfleger wrote, "Dr. Wright is one of the great biblical scholars of our country and the best of preachers in the prophetic tradition. Dr. Wright has been shamefully demonized by 30 second sound bites that have tried to re-define him into someone other than who he is."

Personal life

Photograph- A young Fr. Pfleger with Dexter Scott King, and Pfleger's son Lamar. (14563086987)
Fr. Pfleger with Dexter Scott King, and Pfleger's son Lamar

In 1981, Pfleger adopted an eight-year-old son, Lamar, in defiance of Cardinal John Patrick Cody, who had threatened to fire him if he went ahead with the adoption. Lamar graduated from college and got a job with Continental Airlines, which he lost after the September 11 attacks. He enlisted in the United States Army.

In 1992, Pfleger adopted another son, Beronti, who attended the University of Central Florida before his sudden death on May 20, 2012. Pfleger says his son had been coping with an illness the past few years.

In 1997, Pfleger became the foster father to Jarvis Franklin, who was killed by stray gunfire on May 30, 1998.

In popular media

In 2009, a documentary film called Radical Disciple: The Story of Father Pfleger was released. It was directed by Bob Hercules.

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