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Obama, family attend Easter services near the White House

U.S. President Barack Obama waves as he walks with first lady Michelle Obama (L) and their daughters Malia (R) and Sasha after attending Eas
U.S. President Barack Obama waves as he walks with first lady Michelle Obama (L) and their daughters Malia (R) and Sasha after attending Eas

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama and his family walked to church on Sunday for Easter services across from the White House.

Wishing "Happy Easter" to onlookers, Obama, his wife Michelle, and their daughters Malia and Sasha, strolled through a park to St. John's Church, where they have attended services before.

Their presence at the nearby Episcopal church had not been announced in advance, and the minister, Rev. Dr. Luis Leon, admonished some gawking and picture-taking churchgoers during the service to return to their seats.

Leon used his sermon to encourage parishoners to look forward and not be stuck in the past, and he added a political edge with criticism of some right-leaning conservative Christians.

"The captains of the religious right are always calling us back, back, back," he said. "For blacks to be back in the back of the bus, for women to be back in the kitchen, for gays to be in the closet, and for ... immigrants to be on their side of the border," he said.

Obama has made immigration reform a goal of his second term, and the themes of women's equality and gay marriage were major issues during his 2012 re-election campaign.

After the service, braving a light rain, the Obama family walked under umbrellas back to the White House.

The Obamas have not joined a church since moving to Washington from Chicago in 2009. They have visited a handful of churches in the city but do not attend regularly.

(Reporting by Jeff Mason; editing by Christopher Wilson)