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Obamas plan Easter in D.C.

Margaret Talev McClatchy Newspapers

President Barack Obama and his family are spending the Easter holiday in the nation’s capital – but where, and doing what?

Church services Sunday? “He will go, but I’m not going to tell you where,” press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters.

As Obama navigates the first months of his presidency, the politician who promised more transparency in government but craves some semblance of a private life is still trying to find that balance.

That’s been true of the Obamas’ search for a local church. Most of the vetting of roughly a dozen churches is happening behind the scenes, and Gibbs said that whatever church the Obamas attend this Sunday shouldn’t be seen as a sign of which church they’ll join as members.

The president and first lady Michelle Obama especially have sought to shield daughters Malia and Sasha from prying scribes. The Obamas are advertising their own participation in Monday’s White House Easter Egg Roll, but there’s been no word on the girls’ involvement.

Beyond privacy, Obama these days has an eye on protecting his own security and on causing as little disruption as possible for outside groups.

When word got out just before his January inauguration that he would attend a Sunday service at the Nineteenth Street Baptist Church, crowds jammed the church and many parishioners couldn’t get in. Aides don’t want that to happen with Easter services.

For Sunday’s church visit, the president is expected to be accompanied by a pool of photographers and reporters. At that point, his whereabouts will become public information.

In contrast, a Passover Seder that Obama, who is Christian, attended on Thursday at the White House was deemed a private event closed to the press.

Aides had been divided over whether to publicly disclose the president’s attendance at the event, organized by some of his Jewish staff members.

It was mentioned in passing in an earlier memo to reporters. But the daily guidance memo for reporters released Wednesday night accidentally included a string of internal e-mail correspondence on the subject among aides, asking whether it could be left off the daily schedule and revealing that some area Jewish supporters were calling the White House wondering why they hadn’t been invited.

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