Most of you probably saw or heard the results of the Pew Forum’s poll about the President’s religion. An incredible 18% of all those surveyed and 31% (!) of Republicans surveyed say the President is a Muslim.
On the one hand, we might say, What difference does it make? The nation (and especially all the nay-saying Protestants) found out after the presidential election in 1960 that it doesn’t particularly make a difference if the President is a Roman Catholic. Moreover, the Constitution declares that there is no religious test for public office.
But the fact is, the President is a Christian—in spite of the fact that only 34% of those polled (and only 27% of the Republicans) think so. Comedian Jimmy Kimmel got it right the other day when he said, “A new poll finds that more and more Americans believe that President Obama is a Muslim. . . . Which is crazy. Remember . . . during the election, when all anyone could talk about was his crazy friend, Reverend Wright, and how he couldn't be trusted because he belonged to this guy’s church for 20 years? What happened to that?”
Some of my first blog entries were about Rev. Jeremiah Wright, who had been Barack Obama’s pastor at the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago for twenty years. (To see those postings, click on the “Jeremiah Wright” label on the right.) Do some people really think Obama became a Muslim after (or because) criticism caused him to leave the church where Wright was pastor?
In contrast to Kimmel, political satirist Stephen Colbert made this inane and highly misleading statement the other day: he said the President “endorsed jihad!” and then quoted the President’s statement: “I believe that Muslims have the right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country. That includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in lower Manhattan.” Then Colbert said, “You know what? I’ve been wrong, and I owe the President an apology. You’re not a secret Muslim.”
Colbert, of course, was just trying to get a laugh. What worries me is the people who are serious in labeling the President a Muslim. In her August 20 blog posting titled “Are One-Quarter of Americans Freakin’ Morons?” Time senior editor Amy Sullivan points out that “calling Obama a Muslim has become a way for some conservatives to express their distrust of and opposition to him. The idea that ‘Muslim’ is being used as that kind of pejorative shorthand is a disturbing development on its own.” I think that is certainly true.
I am particularly disturbed by the many conservative Christians who seek to denigrate the President by labeling him a Muslim even though they claim to uphold the Ten Commandments, one of which, of course, is “Thou shalt not bear false witness.”
The late senator Daniel Moynihan (1927-2003) made an important point when he famously said that people are entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts. Even those who have a negative opinion about the President have the responsibility to get their facts straight about his religion.