The conservative church that Rep. Michele Bachmann officially left days before launching her presidential campaign says the Minnesota congresswoman's decision came at its request.
"The impetus came from the church," Joel Hochmuth, a spokesman for the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, the denominational organization that includes the church, said Friday. "For the pastor's sake, he wanted to know where he stood with the family."
Bachmann, who is campaigning to win the Republican nomination to run for president, had stopped attending Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church two years ago but did not formally end her membership until June 21. 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 Wright's more controversial sermons, which included statements critical of the United States and what many considered to be slurs against white people.
Becky Rogness, a spokeswoman for Bachmann's congressional office, said she now attends a nondenominational church in the Stillwater, Minn., area but declined to specify which one.
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 said it is not a central tenet of the faith.